We Choose Which Altar – Life or Greed

Lost and Found

“Lost and Found” by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission. www.GregOlsen.com

Listen to audio Hear audio and see video of this homily
GOSPEL READING STARTS AT 25:53
HOMILY STARTS AT 28:35

Matthew 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. 
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. 
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned. 
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way. 
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,
‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you,
the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

So, interestingly, Isaiah gives this prophesy to the elders and the priests of the church, warning them against becoming kind of self-important. He says that God has prepared everything because when we talk about vineyards, Jesus. or any place in scripture, if we are talking about the vineyard, we are talking about the people of God. And so, God has prepared. All they have to do is make sure that they continue to take care of the people so that they don’t go astray (wild grapes).

Jesus takes that description, and He makes it into a parable. And in this parable, He talks about these tenants. And these tenants, once they are given all of this to take care of for the master, they start to think of it as their own. And then they don’t want to give it up. Basically, out of their greed, they want to keep all of this their selves. And, so, out of their greed, they get to the point where, when he sends his messengers, (His Prophets), to retrieve his produce, they decide, because of their greed, that its okay. They’re about to put aside what they’ve been taught all their lives. They put it aside and they’re able to do violence against others.  They beat and they stomp. They even get to the point where they will do murder. Even when the master’s son comes, they murder him also. And so, Jesus is warning the priests and the elders, “You guys really need to make sure that you don’t allow your greed, your self-importance, to affect how you deal with the people. The people are always what’s most important.”

Today’s October 4. The dedication of the church, the anniversary, but even to me this is a much more important date. I woke up this morning, wanting to do what I have done for so many years before, and that’s to call my Dad up and wish him a Happy Birthday. Love my Dad, but then I realized I can’t call my Dad because my Dad passed away. December 24th of last year. But the great joy that I can take from my Dad’s death is the fact that he took care of his part of that vineyard – those that he loved, those that he touched their lives. He returned to the Master the produce that he produced in his part of the vineyard. And what he got out of that was the last 3 months or so of his life, he moved into my niece’s house. He was constantly surrounded, even as his light dimmed, he was constantly surrounded by people who loved him. And when his light was finally extinguished, it’s the same thing. He had a beautiful, beautiful funeral. That’s a beautiful story.

The sad, part is that we have so many of our elderly, so many of our seniors who are just kind of sloughed off to nursing homes, to skilled nursing units because our culture doesn’t want to be burdened. The same people who brought them life, the same people who taught them lessons as they were growing, are now put aside – for what? Convenience. Our greed. We want to keep our time for ourselves. We want to keep our money for ourselves. And so, our greed continues on through that convenience of setting one of the most precious of all the assets we can have. All those lessons, all the beautiful stories, all that love is just pushed aside. That’s a sad story.

But honestly, the most horrific story, and I’ve read plenty or horrible stories, but the most horrific story I have ever read comes from the Gospels. That is the killing of the Holy Innocents. Whenever Herod, out of fear of Jesus, sends his soldiers into the Bethlehem area. And he has all the 2-year old male children killed by the sword. By a knife. Because of his fear of Jesus. And you would think everybody here would just be sick to hear that story. And yet, in our culture today, a culture that Saint Pope John Paul II called a culture of death, every year in the United States, every single year, nearly 900,000 infants are killed in the womb. And our government, the new Herod, our government condones it. And they allow the new “soldiers” – the abortion doctors, to attack these Holy Innocent with a knife. With a blade. That’s a horrible, horrible story.

We, if our conscience is properly formed, we cannot allow this to continue. We can’t separate ourselves from it. It is real, it happens almost 900,000 times a year in our country. And, so, if we have that properly formed conscience, we know that there are 5 non-negotiables:

  • The first and most important is abortion. If our conscience is properly formed, we cannot vote for a candidate who is okay with killing babies in the womb.
  • We cannot vote for a candidate who is okay with killing our elderly.

There are 3 others:

  • Embryonic stem cells research – having a baby born so that we can harvest the organs of a baby
  • Human cloning – Can’t do it.
  • And, of course, same-sex marriage. It is not something that the Catholic Church is going to ever condone.

I am not here – no one up here is going to tell you who you can vote for. You must vote your conscience. I’m not going to tell you a candidate. I’m not going to tell you a party. I’m saying that, as Catholics, we have 5 non-negotiables.  They’re huge.

And so, what I pray for you, is that you are able to have a conscience that tells you how intrinsically wrong, intrinsically evil the killing of the Holy Innocents are. It should horrify us. We should never, ever condone that. And, of course, one of the most precious assets we have is what we can learn from our elderly.

And so, how do we get to this point? How do we get to the point that we have to stand up here and say, “That’s wrong!”. Well, because, I think, our society, our culture, has decided to worship a different god – the god of greed. They worship at the altar of convenience. And if we’re doing something out of convenience, then it is truly – if we are harming others out of convenience for ourselves, it is absolutely one of the most intrinsically evil things we can do. We can’t do it, brothers and sisters.

But our God is so huge, our God is so amazing. I don’t know. Are any of you aware of what a nebula is? A nebula is this huge cloud out in space. We’ve never known, really, what goes on inside it, but it’s the remnants of a dead star. But the Hubble Telescope allows us to go inside, and to look there in the center. And, in the center, what you’ll find is these little tadpole-looking things. What those are, are solar systems that are being born, and birthed out into the universe. God can bring amazing things. Even out of death – natural death. But again, our God cannot help but be so disappointed in us if we are allowing – continuing to allow what’s happening in our society today.

So, Jesus tells us today that we have a choice. And our choice is that we can choose to worship at the Altar of Life, because the gospel that we read is a gospel of life. God is joined with us, His people. Or we can continue to worship at the Altar of Greed and Convenience. It’s our choice. I just pray that everyone here truly looks into their conscience and makes sure that it is consciously, morally right. It has been formed in the correct way.

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