Saturday evening I celebrated Mass at St. Brenden’s in Jeffrey City. Two families are the primary members of this mission. Jeffrey City is the community that in its glory days was home to around 5,000 people with a uranium mine serving as the economic driver. Once the mine closed back in the 1980’s, the community quickly dwindled to a very small population.
The present church of St. Brenden’s was build about the time the mine closed, but services have been held at St. Brenden’s for many years prior to this present church. At this time, it is mostly ranchers living and working in the area.
This morning I will celebrate Mass with the people at Ascension in Hudson and then make my way over to St. Joseph’s in Shoshone. Below is my homily for this weekend.
As the Extraordinary Synod on the Family begins today in Rome, let us continue to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance for the Synod Fathers and all of its participants. Of course, it goes without saying, let us pray for all married couples and families to grow in God’s love and grace.
27th Sunday In Ordinary Time: Year A
Our readings today remind us that just as the Owner of the vineyard provided everything necessary for the vineyard to provide a bountiful harvest, so God provides each of us all that is required for us to yield the good fruits of justice, love and mercy.
The Prophet Isaiah teaches us many important aspects about our relationship with God. First of all, we learn that God is the creator of all things, and everything created by God is meant for some good purpose. All things being created by God have an interior capacity for being in harmony with the rest of creation. This ‘harmony’ of all creation is realized when each element of creation produces the ‘good’ for which it was created. All things living and working in harmony together yields the ‘common good,’ which is nothing short of the creation God intends, which is the Kingdom of God.
However, when there is a breakdown in this ‘harmony’ of all things, God’s plans are frustrated, and rather than yielding good fruit, wild grapes are the result. The comparison offered in the readings today is between the vintner’s abundant care for his vineyard and God’s providential and bountiful provision for each of us. This is the second point, God is not only Creator, but is also bountiful in the many ways He provides for all our needs.
Just as the owner of the vineyard provided all that was necessary for a bountiful harvest; a fertile hillside, proper cultivation and preparation of the soil, choice vine stocks, a watch tower and winepress, so God provides all that we need to yield the harvest of justice he seeks from each of us.
Today’s readings invite us to reflect upon this goodness and fidelity of God. God has done all that is necessary for us to live good and holy lives. Nothing is lacking! He has created us in his image and likeness. He has created us for a communion of love, with Himself and with one another. Knowing our capacity for selfishness and sin, God in His great love sent His only Son not only to reveal the fullness of His love, but to be our redemption and salvation. Indeed, nothing is lacking in God’s fidelity and love.
The third point is simple; The ‘good harvest’ God now looks for is that we return love for love. Our love for God cannot simply be ‘lip service.’ Our love for God must be concrete and manifest in our love for one another. If all we do is express our love for God without putting that love into action, then we will only yield wild grapes.
There are fundamentally only two responses to God’s love: cooperation or rejection. Granted, there are many shades of response in between these two, whether indifference, apathy, or fear, but basically we are either growing in love or diminishing in love.
Part of the Providence of God and the evidence that nothing is lacking in his care for us is also seen when we reject His love, when we fail to produce the fruits of justice. In other words, we reap what we sow. When we live only for our self, God will allow that we experience His absence, not so much as a punishment, but a remedy to cause us to once again return to His love. Just as the vineyard owner took away the hedge and allowed his vineyard to be trampled; no longer pruned or hoed the vineyard so that it became overgrown by thorns and briers, our failure to love exposes our lives to elements that lead only to death.
When we fail to love God and neighbor and yield only wild grapes, God’s greatest Providence is the presence of His Son in the world. As the Psalmist says today, Jesus is our ‘restoration,’ He is our ‘new life.’
Along with His Son, God created each of us with a capacity to live virtuous lives; holy lives. St .Paul summarizes for us today the things that manifest the presence of God at work in our lives. The good fruits that we are to bear are truth, honor, justice, purity, beauty and graciousness. These are the virtues that reveal the presence of God, and these are the fruits we are to bear. Let us cultivate these virtues in our lives, and then we can be confident that we are bearing good fruit and building God’s Kingdom.
Today’s Gospel ends with a severe warning; if we are not producing the fruits of God’s Kingdom, it will be taken away from us and given to those who will yield its fruits. Therefore, let us be good stewards of the many blessings God bestows upon us.