Sunday, October 5, 2014

Homily for Today

Good morning! Your presence here today reminds me of a passage in the Gospel of John, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink." [Jn. 7:37-8] I gather that because you are here, you are all thirsty for the Word of God. I ask for the grace of God in the Most Holy Name of Jesus that by the power of the Holy Spirit, I will be able to fill that thirst as you receive the spiritual drink that I am about to relate to you as a humble instrument of the Lord. Then, hopefully, you will go forth to share the richness of the Word of the Lord with others so out of your "believing heart shall flow rivers of living water." [Jn. 7:38]

Today, when listening to the readings, we heard similarities between the First Reading from the Book of Isaiah [Is. 5:1-7] and the reading from the Gospel of Matthew. [Mt. 21:33-43] Both spoke on the same subject in different ways. The Book of Isaiah referred to this subject as "The Song of the Unfruitful Vineyard" while the Gospel of Matthew referred to it as "The Parable of the Wicked Tenants."

When carefully reviewing these two readings, two meanings can be perceived from what was read. While both meanings are prophetic, the first is worldly in nature, the second being spiritual in nature, transcending all times. Both of these meanings will be reviewed so you may gain a broader insight on the Word of God.

To understand who the Wicked Tenants were in the Parable that Jesus gave, it is necessary to know who Jesus was speaking to. When Jesus gave the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, He was prophetically addressing the chief priests and the Pharisees who were present. This truth is supported by the details that are found in the different Gospels on the subject of the Passion of Jesus where we learn that it was the chief priests and the Pharisees who condemned Jesus to death.

The vineyard represents Israel, the chosen people of God that had been freed from captivity, led to the land of promises and received endless blessings from the Lord. The landowner is the Lord God who owns the chosen people. They are His people.

When we are told that at harvest time, the landowner sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce, we are told that when God expected righteousness from His people in return for His blessings, He sent the prophets. The tenants, the chief priests and Pharisees, seized the prophets, beat one, killed another and stoned another. All the prophets that were sent by God, one by one, received equal treatment. [Mt. 23:29-31]

Finally, the landowner, God, sent His only beloved Son Jesus to them, saying, "They will respect my Son." Rather than believing and accepting the teachings of Jesus as the Son of God and the promised Messiah, the chief priests and the Pharisees plotted against Him also and killed Him. Why did they plot against Jesus and kill Him? It is because the chief priests and the Pharisees saw the crowds of thousands of people who were following Jesus to hear His Word. They saw the influence that Jesus had on the people. They witnessed the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus. They feared the arrival of the Kingdom of God that Jesus was preaching, a Kingdom that would take away their dishonest positions of glories and honours.

When Jesus stated that the tenants had said, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance," He was speaking of the manner in which the law of those days was applied. When a heir died without having made a legal will, his property was considered unoccupied land that went to the first person who claimed it. If tenants were on the land, they had the first opportunity to claim the property by their right of occupation.

Now Jesus, being the rightful King of kings and Lord of lords, held the inherited right as the Son of God to rule in the Kingdom of God. [1 Tim. 6:15] What the chief priests and the Pharisees did not realize is that the Kingdom of God that Jesus was preaching about was not of this world. [Jn. 18:36] It is within the person, being spiritual in nature! [Lk. 17:20-1] Fearing that Jesus would take away their positions of glories and honours, they plotted to kill Jesus in order to preserve their elevated places among the Jewish people.

Following what has just been said, Jesus made two prophetic statements. First of all, quoting Psalms 118:22-3, Jesus stated that the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. He, that the chief priests and Pharisees were rejecting, was to become the cornerstone of Christianity, the Holy Catholic Church, the firstfruit of many to follow, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. It is He who rules in the eternal Kingdom of God.

Secondly, Jesus stated, "Therefore, I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the Kingdom." Here, Jesus was prophesying that the Gentiles would be admitted into the Kingdom of God, the Holy Catholic Church, the Body of Christ. Looking back in history, we can now say that all these things have come to pass. But what about the spiritual meaning of the Parable, the meaning that transcend all times?

Spiritually, Jesus was prophesying about this age and the standard that we must meet to inherit the Kingdom of God. The landowner is Jesus Himself. He has established His Holy Catholic Church on earth and He has left this world to sit at the right hand of the Father. [Acts 2:33] In charge of His Church, He left tenants to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit. [Gal. 5:22-3] The tenants are those who have been admitted into the Body of Christ, having been baptized, having received the promised gift of the new creation, [Ezek. 11:19, 18;31, 36:26; Jer. 24:7; Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17] the new heart and human spirit [Zech. 12:1; 1 Cor. 2:11] of the godly seed. [1 Pet. 2:3; 1 Jn. 3:9] They are the holy priesthood, [1 Pet. 2:5] the children of God who will inherit the eternal Kingdom.

One verse in Matthew 21:33 is very important. It says that the landowner LEASED the land to the tenants. It does not say that He gave it to them. He LEASED it. When something is leased, something is expected in return. Equally, those who qualify to become the children of God, are expected to become shining lights [Mt. 4:16] in the world. They are expected to shine in the love of Christ towards all. They are expected to grow in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. These spiritual qualities are what the Heavenly Father expects His children to present to Him in return for His blessings in acknowledgement and appreciation of the gift of life that God has given them through the Blood of Christ.

We then come to the passage about the slaves. Who are the slaves? As God the Father sent slaves who were the prophets in the days of the Old Testament, Jesus also sends slaves in the world today. These slaves, as the prophets who answered their callings and did God's work, are today's ministers of the Word of God. They are the priests, the Bishops, the Cardinals, the Pope. They are the slaves of righteousness in Christ. [Rom. 6:15-8]

As in the days of the Old Testament, nowadays, many reject the Word of God. And they also reject those who are being sent by the grace of God to teach the truth by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Name of Jesus. Going beyond sending His slaves, as the landowner sent His Son to the tenants, Jesus also sends someone who proceeds from Him. He sends the Holy Spirit. [Jn. 15:26] But as Jesus was rejected and killed, many today are rejecting the sanctifying works of the Holy Spirit, dulling their spiritual minds [Mt. 13:15; Acts 28:27; Heb. 5:11] to the extent that they can no longer hear the Divine Voice within their hearts. By rejecting the indwelling Divine Presence of the Holy Spirit, they end His Holy indwelling within them. This spiritual suicide is no different than killing the Holy Spirit.

While rejecting the Holy Spirit, they still expect to receive the inheritance of the Kingdom of God that belongs to the true children of God that persevere in their living faith. They ignore that faith without works is dead! [Jas. 2:26] They are like the robbers who entered Heaven by another way. [Jn. 10:1] They have accepted the Holy Catholic Church Sacrament of Baptism, professed their faith in Christ and the teachings of the holy and apostolic Church, received God's gift of the new creation... [Ezek. 11:19, 18;31, 36:26; Jer. 24:7; Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17] but rejected the Holy Spirit. They expect to be saved by their own human power, by living a good life without the absolute necessity of the Church Sacraments and perseverance in the Christian faith. They believe beyond any doubt, without the power of the Holy Spirit, that the eternal glory and honours that awaits the children of God is theirs. Like the chief priests and the Pharisees, all that those wretches will receive is a miserable death.

But what about those who were baptized and received God's gift of the new creation, the new spirit [Zech. 12:1; 1 Cor. 2:11] of the godly seed? [1 Pet. 2:3; 1 Jn. 3:9] We do not know the fullness of the wisdom of God, nor do we claim to know it. At the same time, the Holy Bible teaches us, not only in today's reading, but also in the Parable of the Talents, [Mt. 25:28] that God will take away from them what they have received and give it to others.

In the Book of Baruch, we find evidence that those who are in hell, they have lost the gift of the new creation that they have received from God during the Sacrament of Baptism. Hear these words, "O Lord, look down from your holy dwelling, and consider us. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see, for the dead who are in Hades, whose spirit has been taken from their bodies, will not ascribe glory or justice to the Lord..." [Bar. 2:16-7]

Those who are saved are those who do not reject the cornerstone, Jesus Himself, our Divine Redeemer. They walk in the grace of God, joyfully allowing the Holy Spirit to sanctify them in Christ. How is that accomplished? St. Paul answered that question during today's Second Reading. [Phil. 4:6-9]

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. In all what you do, make sure that it is true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing and commendable. With your spiritual minds, think of spiritual things that are worthy of notice and praise. Keep on doing the things that you have learned since your childhood, received and heard from those who have brought you the Word of God and imitate the example of those who live their Christian lives. Through such holy living, may the peace of God be with you all.

Today's Gospel Reading ended with the words, "Therefore I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be... given to a people that produces the fruits of the Kingdom." [Mt. 21:43] The fruits of the Kingdom are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. They are "love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things." [Gal. 5:22-23]

Opposing the fruits of the Holy Spirit are "the works of the flesh... fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing and things like these... those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God." [Gal. 5:19- 21]

The fruits of the Kingdom are like a checklist. We can easily read what is permissible and what is not permissible, asking ourselves after each word and answering either "Yes!" or "No!" Do I shine in love towards everyone? "Yes!" or "No!" Do I make peace with others and encourage others to make peace? "Yes!" or "No!" Do I display patience in all things, at home, at work, with my peers? "Yes!" or "No!"

This week, let us all take a few moments to review our status before God, asking ourselves if we will inherit the Kingdom of God. If we fall short of manifesting the holy ways of God, let us renew our commitment to persevere in our living faith in Christ through a sincere repentance and the reception of the Sacraments. May the grace of God be with each and everyone of you as you assess your spiritual status in the eyes of God.

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