Homily – 26th Sun. OT A September 28, 2008

Homily – 26th Sun. OT A            September 28, 2008

We return this Sunday to Jesus’ proverbial vineyard with its owner and its workers.

Last Sunday, we saw the vineyard owner going down to the marketplace where people gather to look for laborers to hire.  This week, we see the vineyard now a family-run operation, with the owner calling his two sons to go out and work in the vineyard today.

And as we just heard, one son says “Yes, anything you want, Father, I will certainly do” but then he blows off working in the vineyard and does his own thing.

Meanwhile, the other son says “I won’t go work in your vineyard today Father, I’ve got my own things I’m going to do” but later on in the day he changes his mind and goes.
Jesus tells the chief priests and elders of the people “that son who said he would go, but didn’t? — that’s you guys.  That son who initially said he wouldn’t go but ended up going?–that’s the tax collectors and prostitutes and other sinners who’ve turned away from their lives of sin to follow me.”

And my brothers and sisters in Christ, this Gospel is an important one and a challenging one for us who try to take our Catholic faith seriously.

Because what Jesus is saying is that the holier we get, the harder it’s going to be to give our hearts and wills over to God, and the easier it will be to want to do our own will instead of God’s will.

For the chief priests and elders of the people were holy people, with many virtues and admirable qualities.   They had temptations to greed and lust like the prostitutes and tax collectors did, but they learned over the years to acquire the virtuous habits of detachment from material possessions and  almsgiving, chastity and self control.

The chief priests and elders of the people were also probably honest, pious, and prayerful men.   Yet, as Jesus said, they were on the road to damnation, while the repentant tax collectors and prostitutes were on the other side of the road moving in the opposite direction of salvation.

This is because the many good virtues of the chief priests and elders of the people were vastly outweighed by their one big vice, which was pride.

With the tax collectors and prostitutes, the spirit was willing to follow God, but the flesh was weak.  And with the help of Jesus, these people were able to overcome their weaknesses and work productively in God’s vineyard.

But with the chief priests and elders of the people, the spirit was unwilling to follow God, but the flesh was strong.  They had the strength to follow God if they chose, but lacked the will power to choose it due to their pride.

What the chief priests and elders of the people lacked was the most important virtue of humility, which enables us to recognize our absolute need for God, no matter how holy or virtuous we are.

As St. Paul says in 2nd reading, Jesus, who was the holiest man ever to live, did not regard equality with God, did not regard holiness and virtue something to be grasped or clung to.

Our Lord didn’t cling to his own will, but clung rather to his Father’s Will, even when God’s Will meant a humiliating and painful death by crucifixion.  And because of his loving and humble obedience, God the Father greatly exalted Jesus.

The chief priests and elders of the people, however, did regard Godliness something to be clung to.  They willfully clung to their righteousness so much, that when the Messiah came in their midst in the flesh, they refused to follow Him.

Let us ask Our Lord Jesus, who at this Mass will come to us in the Flesh, Body Blood Soul and Divinity, for the virtue of humility, that whatever God asks of us, we will promptly and willfully, in loving obedience, go and do the work in His Vineyard that He has prepared for us.

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