Homily for October 5, 2014: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Msgr. Jim Miller

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 5, 2014

Reading 1 Is 5:1-7

Responsorial Psalm Ps 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20

R/ (Is 5:7a) The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Reading 2 Phil 4:6-9

Gospel Mt 21:33-43

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Starting a vineyard is a big investment of time, money and labor.   You have to select the land on which you are going to plant the vineyard.   You have to decide on what varieties of grapes you want to plant and which are hardy enough for the climate.   You have to build a support system to keep the vines off the ground and at a height that will be easy to pick the grapes.   You will have to wait at least three years to get a crop of grapes.    Your will have to deal with bugs and birds and animals that want to eat the grapes when they are ripe.   What a let down it would be to pick the grapes only to find that they were not only sour but stinking rotten grapes; that they were good for nothing.   Or think of the gospel and renting out the vineyard only to find the tenants did not want to pay for the grapes and your bills were ignored and when you sent your son he was killed.

We are the vineyard of God.   What kind of grapes are we?   What do we offer to life? 

This is Respect Life Month.   In his 2013 Day for Life Greeting, Pope Francis conveyed that “even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”

We want to be part of a society that makes affirmation and protection of human rights its primary objective and its boast.  Yet to women faced with an unexpected pregnancy, abortion is often presented as their only “choice.”  A large percentage of children pre-diagnosed as having Down Syndrome are never given the chance to live outside their mothers’ wombs.  Elderly members of our families fear they will become burdensome and seek physician assisted suicide.  We see these and many more of our brothers and sisters pushed to the periphery.

These tragedies go directly against respect for life, and they represent a direct threat to the entire culture of human rights.  Rather than societies of “people living together,” our cities risk becoming societies of people who are marginalized, uprooted and oppressed.

What can be done to prevent this?  We must draw close to Jesus in prayer and in the sacraments.  We must ask the Lord for the grace to see ourselves and others as he sees us—as masterpieces of his creation.  When God created each of us, he did so with precision and purpose, and he looks on each of us with love that cannot be outdone in intensity or tenderness.  We must look at ourselves and at others in light of this truth and treat all people with the reverence and respect which is due.

The Church’s antidote to an individualism which threatens the respect for human dignity is community and solidarity.  Are we moved by the suffering of those without shelter?   Do we seek to alleviate the fear, confusion and panic that women facing unexpected pregnancies may be experiencing?  Do our hearts ache for elderly patients in nursing home who feel abandoned and unwanted, having no one to visit them?   Can we understand parents who are so fearful of what will happen to their children that they would send them unaccompanied to our country?