Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Oct. 8.
Today’s Gospel is Jesus’ famous parable of the Wicked Tenants, which appears in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and about which you have undoubtedly heard many homilies.
A man plants a vineyard, leases it out to tenant farmers who then refuse to give the owner his share of the crop. They beat and murder two delegations of collection agents and then finally murder the landlord’s son, deluding themselves into thinking that this way they will be able to take possession of the vineyard for themselves. Instead, the landowner destroys them and entrusts the vineyard to others.
This is a sobering message for us who today work in the vineyard of the Lord. Are we producing for the Lord what he asks of us? Or are we willful like those Wicked Tenants? For whom and for what are we living? For ourselves or for the Lord? Whose will comes first in our lives — our own will or the Lord’s will?
I tell young people to notice that when people ask them “what do you want to do with your life?” they’re asking the wrong question. The right question is “What does the Lord want you to do with your life?” and the answer to that question is the only answer that will actually lead to happiness, because it is only then that you’re living for something bigger than yourself.
I find doing Jesus’ will instead of my own will to be pretty challenging sometimes because I am a sinner. I try to do what Jesus would want, but too often my own will gets in the way. Sometimes what the Lord asks of me is hard and everything in me wants to find a way to avoid doing what I know is the right thing because I also know that will be difficult and painful.
But then didn’t Jesus say, “Take up your cross and follow me”? In other words, to do God’s will we have to die to ourselves. And that can be a source of great anxiety unless our lives are rooted solidly in a living, life-giving relationship with Jesus.
This process of learning to live for the Lord rather than for ourselves begins with a personal encounter with Jesus’ mercy that touches and heals the darkest recesses of our own heart, which then of necessity impels us to share gratefully with others the life-changing, spiritually-empowering gift that we have received.
Is there some dark recess in your soul that still harbors things that you’re not yet ready to bring to the Lord for healing — possibly because you don’t yet feel ready to face these things yourself? Admit it to yourself? Every one of us has some area of personal brokenness deep down that is a source of self-questioning anxiety that weighs on us, and which we can pretend isn’t there, but it is.
My brothers and sisters, believe it or not, that wound is a gift! That painful place is a gift because that hole in your heart is the opening through which Jesus can enter your life and dwell in your heart in a more profound way than ever before. Not where we are strong, but rather where we are weak. Because that’s where we’re the most vulnerable. That’s where there’s no denying how much we need him, how much we can’t make it on our own. And that’s what finally enables us to surrender fully to the Lord — which frees us from anxiety. And how is this, you may ask? Because we are now placing ourselves and our future entirely in his hands! Nothing to worry about, because even our apparent failures and disappointments can serve his purposes.
St. Paul captures this beautifully in today’s second reading, where he writes, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
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