The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Homily: Monday, 9th Week of Ordinary Time

Readings: 2 Pt 1:2-7; Ps 91; Mk 12:1-12

Today, of course, is Memorial Day, the day when we honor those who have given their lives for the freedom we hold dear.

Offer a prayer of thanksgiving today; thank God for raising up those courageous souls so willing to sacrifice themselves so you and I can worship here this morning in freedom. Jesus said it best:

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” [Jn 15:13].
And so, today I recall my many friends who did exactly that, and I pray that, thanks to God's mercy, they now share eternal life in His presence.

Now…let’s turn to today’s Gospel.

Do you recall the scene in Saturday’s Gospel passage? The chief priests, scribes and elders had questioned Jesus’ authority, an authority they rejected even though it was accepted by the people. It hadn’t been a pleasant experience for these important men; Jesus had embarrassed them and revealed their hypocrisy. Now, in today’s Gospel, Jesus addressed these same hardened hearts with a parable.

Usually when confronted by a passage containing a parable the homily focuses on the parable’s interpretation – how it was perceived by those who first heard it and how we should understand it. But I think sometimes it’s just as important to understand the situation in which the parable was introduced. So that’s what I intend to do this morning.

Because Jesus’ disputes with the Jewish leadership were so frequent and so confrontational, it’s easy to believe that His aim was simply to expose them and condemn them. Yes, it would be easy to think this, but it would also be wrong.

In truth, Jesus hoped to soften their hardened hearts, and lead them to true conversion. In this we’re reminded of what God spoke through His prophet Jeremiah during some of Israel’s darkest days:

“I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in them doing good” [Jer 32:40-41].
Jesus teaching in the Temple
God rejoices, and all heaven rejoices with Him, when the sinner returns in true conversion of heart.

Have you ever considered that one of the reasons Jesus used parables as a teaching tool is because a parable contains a promise; it includes a message of hope. Jesus, you see, is always pursuing rebellious hearts, encouraging sinners to return to Him and do so freely.

Through this parable He hoped that the priests, scribes and elders would recognize their true selves and the evil that was consuming them. It’s that shock of recognition in one’s own sinfulness that causes the listener to question his life, and to realize that he must change. But such change can come only in the presence of humility. One must be willing to see oneself as a sinner.

The priests, scribes and elders, however, are so consumed by themselves, so sure of their own holiness, so certain that their observation of the law will save them, that they cannot even conceive of the need for a Savior. But Jesus will not turn away from them. He will continue to pursue them. And He does so by exposing them, again and again, to God’s hope for them.

"...they realized that he had addressed the parable to them."
One parable after another focuses on their weaknesses, on that which separates them from true friendship with God. Jesus never loses hope in their conversion. He never grows impatient. He continues to knock, hoping they will open the door and invite Him in.

He seems to plead with them: My love for you is beyond your understanding, and will launch a steady stream of arrows, arrows of divine love, into your hearts. The Father has filled me with His wisdom. And the Spirit is ready to move within you, to change you in ways you can’t imagine, if only you will respond, if only you will make the slightest nod in my direction.

“Listen,” Jesus says, “to another parable, and understand.”

Did they come to understand? Perhaps some did, even after they had shouted out those terrifying words, “Crucify Him!” [Mk 15:13] Yes, the Father sent His Son and the tenants put Him to death. 

The Father sent His Son...
And God takes His vengeance on the unfaithful, the hardhearted, the sinful, and He does so in a most unusual, unpredictable way: 

He overwhelms them with His mercy.

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