We live in a pretty amazing country. In this country, men and women can buy property—they own it, they plant it, and they profit from what it yields. My grandfather, like many immigrants, moved here with very little. Slowly, and not without sacrifice, he purchased cows, hay, tractors, and land. He actually leased the land that his dairy was on, but he eventually bought forty acres on Linwood and another forty on Bradbury. It was the land he loved the most. He had his garden, grew his cucumbers, and as we sat and ate he marveled at what an amazing country this was. He looked out over his property and said, in his thick Portuguese accent, “Ah! Nothing betta! No country betta than this.” I share my Avo’s love for this land.
In today’s parable Jesus talks about people who did not own the land, but leased it, like my Avo. But unlike my Avo, these tenants were greedy. They wanted to use the land, benefit from its fruit, but not pay what was their due. They worked the land, and that was good. They grew the crops, and that was good. They harvested the land, and that too was good. But when it came time to pay their taxes they failed miserably.
Instead of loving the land and being thankful for the blessings that they received from it, instead of being grateful for the generous landowner that invested so much in it for their use—planting the vines, building a hedge around it, digging in a wine press, and building a tower—instead of being grateful and humbly and joyfully giving back, they became sick with greed, killing the man’s servant, killing even more after that, and finally killing even the man’s own son, with delusions the land might be theirs—which of course, as anyone could easily tell, was nonsense. Far from the land being theirs, the crowd answered correctly, “The wretched men would be put to a wretched death, and the vineyard would go to other tenants who would render the payment at the proper time.”
Greed, my brothers and sisters, selfishness and greed. It causes our minds to become twisted. Nothing is ever enough! Many in our country, in our churches and in our families are sick with it. There’s no such thing as enough! Jesus commands us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to visit the ill and imprisoned, but in a world sick with greed we have no time for others. Time is money, we say! We do not take the time to spend with others and we don’t spend money to come to the aid of others. We cannot be Christians if we are sick with greed. We cannot be Christians if we care more about wealth and riches than meeting the basic needs of others.
The Roman Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental provider of education and medical services in the world. The Church runs 5,500 hospitals, 18,000 clinics, 16,000 homes for the elderly and those with special needs, with 65 percent of them located in underdeveloped and developing countries. We should be proud to be Catholic, we should be excited about supporting the Church and all of whom they serve. Gratitude is the antidote to selfishness and greed. The world wants to convince you and me that our cup is only half full, my brothers and sisters, far from being half full, our cup runneth over!
Living in this country, belonging to this Church, being blessed with schools and hospitals, with homeless shelters, with policeman and fireman, and the strongest military the world has ever known so that we might have security and peace and the right to live our faith, love our faith, and practice our faith–that’s something to be grateful for, and should cause us to not only give back, but especially to give God and country their fruit at the proper time.
I served in the Marines as a way to give back to this country that my grandfather taught me to love. I pay my taxes because roads and security, national parks, and clear water isn’t cheap. I volunteer in the community. I pick up trash when I see it, and I recycle as much as I can. It’s an attitude that we have. It causes us to treat this land and it’s people with dignity and respect, and to ask others to do the same. People of faith must register to vote, participate in the elections, and elect leaders that love God and this country as much as we do, and who are willing to serve it. That’s giving fruit at the proper time.
Our parishes are beautiful, they’re God’s gift to our communities, but they need to be worked! Seeds of faith need to be planted, bills paid, grass mowed, calls made, and Masses livestreamed. Your parish needs volunteers with hands and feet ready to work, but also funds that keep salaries paid and lights turned on, candles bought, and wells dug. Volunteering and offering our hard earned treasure—that’s giving fruit at the proper time.
Fr. Manuel had nothing to do with this homily, I promise, it’s from the heart. I love my parish, and I love my country. There’s room for improvement on both and it’s the responsibility of those who enter the vineyard to do the hard work and give the fruit at the proper time.
I’d like you to reflect this week on this country and its leaders. I want to encourage you to register and vote. I’d also like you to consider how much you’ve been blessed by your parish, and I want to encourage you to offer your time, talent, and treasure. Let none among us be among the wretched who are perverted by selfishness and greed, but instead be among the righteous who selflessly serve God and country with a grateful heart. Amen?