27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

IS 5: 1-7 / PS 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16 , 19-20 / Phil 4: 6-9 / MT 21:33-43

     In 2008, my second year in the seminary, Kerry Kennedy came out with a New York Times Bestselling Book entitled Being Catholic Now. In this book, Kerry compiled reflections from many famous Catholics including Cardinal McCarrick, Nancy Pelosi, Bill O’Reilly, Peggy Noonan, Martin Sheen and many ordinary Catholics like you and I. Each of the contributors gave a reflection on change in the Church and the quest for meaning. As I read this book I was fascinated to hear countless different views of our faith. Reading these different views of the Church certainly had an effect on me as a young man preparing to minister to people with this wide chiasm of views, but it wasn’t until I put the book down that it had any real effect on me. As I went to put the book on the shelf I realized deep down each of the contributors was answering a very simply question: why am I Catholic.

     That book made me ask the question for myself, why am I Catholic. Right off the bat I had the usual answer of well that’s just how I was raised, but I was not satisfied with that answer and so for the next year I kept that question in the back of my mind and in the forefront of my prayer. Over my second year in the seminary I began to realize the true answer to that simple question lies at the heart of today’s Gospel.

     Today’s Gospel presents us with the parable of a vineyard entrusted to tenants. Over my second year in the seminary as I kept coming back to the question why am I Catholic the answer became more and more obvious, I am Catholic by the grace of God. Like the vineyard entrusted to the tenants in today’s Gospel, my faith has been entrusted to me by God. God has done the hard work, He has planted the seed of faith within me, but now I must work to cultivate that vineyard of faith with His grace.

     As I read Kerry Kennedy’s books I was surprised to see so many varying views on the Church. As I reflected on the contributors reflections I realized most of them had made a fatal flaw. As they were composing their reflections they subconsciously were thinking “how can the Church better serve my need?” Today’s first reading and responsorial psalm warn us against this temptation. We are reminded today that the vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel. The vineyard, our faith, is not ours to mold and shape as we see fit, no it is a gift from God that is to be cultivated for our salvation and not for our own selfish desires. Pope Francis reminds us “the Church is sent by Jesus Christ as the sacrament of salvation offered by God.”[1] Our salvation comes through the Church, through faithfully cultivating that gift of faith and sharing it with others. While this may seem like a daunting task today’s second reading reminds us there is no need to fear. It is our Lord who has given us the gift of our faith, if only we ask Him to guard it and we work towards whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and gracious we can be sure that our vineyard will bear an abundant harvest. Do we go looking for wild grapes by trying to impose new beliefs that are incompatible with our faith or do our lives reflect the beauty of the faith by living out the virtues listed by St. Paul in today’s second reading that are the fruits of a healthy vineyard?

     My brothers and sisters, “our salvation is intimately related to our participation in the great Sacrament that is the Church, through which we hope to manifest the living kingdom coming to be now and realize our part in it in glory.”[2] We as Catholics, although it may feel like we are often the stone that the builders reject, must continue to bear fruit by living out our faith and through that fruit show the world the beauty that an encounter with Jesus which can only be fully found in the Catholic Church brings to ones life. As I read Kerry Kennedy’s book it became abundantly clear to me for the need for Catholics to stand up for their faith and hand on what Pope Francis calls the Joy of the Gospel.

     As we prepare to receive our Lord who sustains our faith I challenge all of us to ask ourselves why am I Catholic and what does that mean for my life? Do I recognize the great gift that is my faith or do I see it as just another way of life? Does some pruning need to go on in my vineyard so that my life will bear abundant fruit by authentically living out my faith? Am I truly working to cultivate that field of faith entrusted to my care and will I share the beauty of her harvest with others or will my faith fizzle out because I try to keep it bottled up? As we prepare to receive Jesus in the Eucharist let us ask Him to give us an increase in the gift of faith and the strength to share the fruits of that faith with others.

[1] Pope Francis. Evangelii Gaudium. Washington DC: USCCB, 2014. 57

[2] Wuerl, Donald Cardinal. New Evangelization: Passing on the Catholic Faith Today. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 2013. 81.

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