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McTeigue: Are we exempt from the blindness that has ruined other communities?

madonna-of-mercy

Ave Maria’s Father Robert McTeigue, S.J., preached a wonderful homily at Mass on the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:

Do you think that God has a sense of humor?  I think that He at least has a sense of irony.  After all, He has a city boy like me regularly preach about wheat, seeds, sheep and fish—all things I’ve not spent a lot of time with.  And now, I, whose experience in construction does not extend beyond nailing two boards together, have to preach to you about why buildings fall down.

Jesus said, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  The cornerstone is the first element of a building’s foundation.  The rest of the foundation flows from the cornerstone.  In other words, if you mess with the cornerstone, the whole building will come crashing down around your ears.

We have to sound the alarm.  We have to offer alternatives.  We have to offer shelter to those who may be fleeing the collapse.  And…we have to look in the mirror.

Here in our little home of Ave Maria—in our schools, our town, our parish, our neighborhoods and families, and within our own souls—we have to ask ourselves:  “Is Christ the true cornerstone?  Are we faithful and fruitful stewards of God’s gifts and God’s favor?  Are we exempt from the blindness that has ruined other communities, nations and even civilizations?”

These hard questions have to start within the sanctuary of each soul here. And then with humility and charity we need to begin to have that conversation with one another.

Click below to read the entire homily.

Father McTeigue is currently finishing a collection of homilies and essays on preaching entitled, I Have Someone to Tell You: A Jesuit Heralds the Gospel. He recently began writing a weekly column. He earnestly seeks your prayers that his life and work be to God’s greater glory – and he invites your comments.

Werken_van_Barmhartigheid,_Meester_van_Alkmaar_(1504)

This is the full text of the homily:

Do you think that God has a sense of humor?  I think that He at least has a sense of irony.  After all, He has a city boy like me regularly preach about wheat, seeds, sheep and fish—all things I’ve not spent a lot of time with.  And now, I, whose experience in construction does not extend beyond nailing two boards together, have to preach to you about why buildings fall down.

Jesus said, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  The cornerstone is the first element of a building’s foundation.  The rest of the foundation flows from the cornerstone.  In other words, if you mess with the cornerstone, the whole building will come crashing down around your ears.

Jesus identifies Himself as the cornerstone.  The heart of the foundation of the Faith, the heart of the foundation of the Church, is Jesus Himself.  He knows that He will be rejected by the Pharisees and their followers, people who should have recognized Him and His mission and welcomed Him.  God, Who loves surprises, takes the very one Who was rejected and uses Him to be the foundation of His divine plan to save the human race.  And as the gift of the Messiah was rejected, that gift was extended to all the nations, as Jesus is proclaimed the Christ of God—the anointed one, the savior of the world.

Now we can use this account of the cornerstone, and the parable we just heard from Matthew’s gospel, and come to some very sobering conclusions.  In the parable, the tenants betray the owner’s trust, scorn the owner’s messengers, and finally murder the owner’s son and heir.  That process did not end well for the tenants.  Note how Matthew’s account ends the parable.  Jesus asked, “’What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?’ They answered him, ‘He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.’”

Now, why do I say that this parable and the image of cornerstone lead us to sobering conclusions?  The parable teaches us that God will withdraw His favor from those who are poor stewards of His gifts.  Let me say that again:  The parable teaches us that God will withdraw His favor from those who are poor stewards of His gifts.  That should stop us in our tracks and move us to a profound examination of conscience.  Am I doing my duty with great love?  Am I making a glad return to the Lord for all He has given me?  Am I, as the parable says, giving the Lord the produce at the proper times?

Let’s be clear.  Disobedience, laziness, lukewarmness and slovenly discipleship turn away God’s favor.  That sobering lesson is written throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.  With just a bit of care, we can read much of Christian history in the same way.  God is merciful, but He will not be mocked; God is patient, but He does not give any person, community, nation or civilization an infinite amount of time to bear good fruit.  Eventually, an accounting will be made.  And God doesn’t deal well with disappointment.

Now let’s look at the image of the cornerstone.  A sound building rests upon the cornerstone.  Tinker with the cornerstone and the building collapses.  The collapsing of the building is just another image of God withdrawing His favor from faithless or fruitless people.  The cornerstone is Christ Himself; rejection of Christ the cornerstone leads to the inevitable collapse of individuals, communities, nations and civilizations.  I believe that we now live in a time when Christ the cornerstone is being undermined, and in some places, outright rejected and even removed.

Let me give you one example.  Last week, a well-known, self-identified Catholic university announced that it would comply with a state requirement to pay for the abortions of its faculty and staff.  Surely we can say that is a direct rejection of Christ, and the removal of Christ as the cornerstone of that university.  Unless that university community repents of its decision, however the story of the university ends, it will surely not end with the words, “…and they lived happily ever after.”  Tinkering with the cornerstone always leads to the collapse of the building—always.  And today’s parable reminds us that when people called by God remain faithless and fruitless, then God’s favor is transferred to another.  I believe that the story of that university is just one example of present day communities, nations and even Western civilization actively detaching themselves from the cornerstone Who is Christ.

If we look around us, we can see institution after institution removing Christ as the cornerstone of their life and mission.  That cannot end well.  We have to sound the alarm.  We have to offer alternatives.  We have to offer shelter to those who may be fleeing the collapse.  And…we have to look in the mirror.

Here in our little home of Ave Maria—in our schools, our town, our parish, our neighborhoods and families, and within our own souls—we have to ask ourselves:  “Is Christ the true cornerstone?  Are we faithful and fruitful stewards of God’s gifts and God’s favor?  Are we exempt from the blindness that has ruined other communities, nations and even civilizations?”

These hard questions have to start within the sanctuary of each soul here.  And then with humility and charity we need to begin to have that conversation with one another.  We are surely blessed to be here, with opportunities that other faithful Catholics would marvel at.  But it is not enough to simply be here.  We must work together as colleagues, neighbors, friends, and above all as fellow disciples of Christ, to produce for our Lord a rich harvest of souls and of praise.  How we worship, how we work, how quick we are to ask forgiveness and how quick we are to forgive—all these are indicators of our fidelity and of our fruitfulness.  And once we have an honest accounting of our graces and our response to God’s gifts—then what?  Then, we turn to Saint Paul for guidance.

We heard these words from Saint Paul this morning:  “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”  Saint Paul is asking us to bring all of our needs and longings and wounds and joys to God in prayer.  As the wise man said, “There is nothing too great for God’s power; and nothing too small for his fatherly care.”  We can and should bring our past, present and future to God for His blessing and for His healing.  As our prayers reach to the heart of God, our fears and doubts and shame will be beautifully burned away by the fire of His fatherly love.  And if we follow Saint Paul and offer everything to God in prayer, then what?

Saint Paul answers with these words:  “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  Scripture scholar M.R. Vincent wrote, “Peace is the fruit of believing prayer.”  In other words, when we offer all to God, and find in return His love, then the fear of the faithless and the anxiety of the orphan fade away.  With our hearts and minds at peace, then we can see clearly how blessed we are, and respond with gratitude and generosity.  We will become the faithful and fruitful stewards that God has made us to be.

So, now what?  What shall we do today and tomorrow and the next day?  How shall we live?  Today, and for every day this week, I will ask you to pray for three graces, three special blessings.  I will ask you to pray to be thoughtful, to be grateful and to be fruitful.

Pray to be thoughtful—think of the blessings you have received and the return you should make to the Lord.  Pray to be grateful—marvel at your blessings and resolve to prove your gratitude daily.  Pray to be fruitful—in thought, word and deed, do all to make Christ the cornerstone known and loved.  If we do that, if we live and pray as thoughtful, grateful, and fruitful, then, as Saint Paul has promised us:  “…the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

May God’s Holy Name be praised now and forever.

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4 Comments

  Nicole Ledesma wrote @

Fr. you are one of the only priests who can keep my attention the entire homily from beginning to end. You are a fantastic homilist and I look forward to hear what you have to say each and every mass you celebrate!

  Father Robert McTeigue, S.J. wrote @

Thanks be to God, Nicole, for your kind words. Please continue to pray for me, and especially for my writing projects.

  Jennifer Castillo wrote @

Convicting! Cuts to the heart! May St Ignatius continue to intercede for you to feed us with “solid food” to grow into the great saints God calls us to be! Your homework of 3 words: thoughtful, grateful, and fruitful have carried us through the week. Using shorthand comes in handy while we take notes of your homily in our Mass Journal. Even our 3 young daughters were taking notes and remembered your homily. Eternal thanks! AMDG!

  Maureen Leung wrote @

Thank you Fr. for giving us another sermon to meditate on and use for the week. I am truly grateful for such a wonderful priest and I am sure that your wonderful sermons will bear an abundance of fruit in our family and others. God Bless


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