Sermons

Summary: But whatever happens on November 3, God remains supreme, and God’s glory is assured, in our hearts and worship and ultimately in the victory Christ has won.

27th Sunday in Course A 2020

The Plague Year Homilies

About forty years after the Resurrection of Jesus, in the third year of the Jewish revolution against the Romans, Supreme Leader Titus encircled the walls of Jerusalem and began a siege. It began three days before the Passover feast, and it is thought that nearly a million Jews were in the city. It ended four months later with the burning of the Temple Herod had built and the murder or enslavement of everyone who had not escaped already. The Christian community had heeded the advice Jesus had given four decades before, and had fled the area some months earlier.

There should have been no surprise, because it had happened at least three times before, right there in Palestine. As the psalm tells us, God had transplanted the vine we call the people of Israel into the land of Canaan. And Torah tells us why. It wasn’t because of some special virtue of those Egyptian refugees. He chose the wayfarers of Israel because of His solemn promise to their ancestor Abraham, that He would give them the land in return for Abraham’s lifelong obedience. And He dispossessed the people of the land, the Hittites and Hivites and Jebusites and the list goes on and on, precisely because they had violated the natural law, the law written on every human heart. They did not respect natural marriage between man and woman, tolerating and promoting every kind of perversion, even in their worship. And they did not respect human life. They sacrificed the lives of their children to their demon-deities. So God had thrown them out and given the land to the Israelites. What did God ask in return? Just keep the commandments, and respect the right worship of the One God.

Their response had been to violate every commandment. So, again and again God sent invaders and plagues and famine. They would repent for a while, but then go back to all their vile practices. They would pray this psalm, asking God to take care of His vine, and He would respond out of His infinite loving compassion. Then back to their evildoing.

But by the time of Isaiah, the cycle of sin, punishment, repentance and renewal had just about worn itself out. So we hear him speak for God, as all the prophets did over and over, and ask the people of Judah–because more than half the Israelites had already been conquered and sent into exile–what more could I have done and didn’t do for you? I wanted fruits of justice and right worship, and I got bloodshed and outcry. So I’m going to do to you what I did to the pagans you found when you came here. Wipe it all out, break down the walls, make it a waste. And He had done so. Two successive deportations to Babylon and fifty years without a home. They learned the hard way what God wanted, in exile in a far-off land. But there they codified their writings and relearned God’s law so that when they returned to Palestine, they returned, a new generation of Jews, renewed and ready to obey and worship.

But by the time of Jesus, their worship and relationships had become rigid, their society stratified, so that the leaders looked down on the common people as rabble, unworthy of God’s promise. The people were oppressed by Roman dominion, and not built up by their worship. When the Son of God, Jesus, appeared and taught and healed like none before, the Jewish leaders conspired with the Romans to murder Him. Yes, He rose again and in His Church continued to teach and heal and lead right worship, but the majority of the Jewish people turned their backs on their call, just as they had always done. And as their leaders predicted in today’s Gospel, one generation later many were put to death or carted off into slavery.

Many of you are now anxious about the riots in our cities and the rancor stirred up by the election and the choice of a new Supreme Court justice. Yes, of the two election outcomes, one seems more compatible with our desires for peace and respect for the Christian way of life than the other. But whatever happens on November 3, God remains supreme, and God’s glory is assured, in our hearts and worship and ultimately in the victory Christ has won. So have no anxiety about anything, and continue to pray for peace and justice and respect. Thank God when you ask God. Then peace will reign in your hearts, whether external events are pleasant or not. And remember what Jesus’s last command was. It’s the same direction the deacon tells you at the end of every Mass: go in peace, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ by your lives. Because God wants everyone you know to be saved, to live by the new law: Love God above all things, and love our neighbor as Jesus Christ loved us.

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