27Oct 27 October. Saturday, Week 29

1st Reading: Ephesians (4:7-16)

The church led by apostles and evangelists, teaches and unifies its members

[My friends)

Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” (When it says, “He ascended,”; what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in very way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 122)

R.: Let us go up with joy to the house of the Lord

I rejoiced when I heard them say:
‘Let us go to God’s house.’
And now our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem. (R./)

Jerusalem is built as a city
strongly compact.
It is there that the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord. (R./)

For Israel’s law it is,
there to praise the Lord’s name.
There were set the thrones of judgement
of the house of David. (R./)

Gospel: Luke (13:1-9)

Trees must yield good fruit, or they may be cut down

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next ear, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”


Interaction and unity in the Church

The basic dynamics of Christian unity appear in today’s text from Ephesians. Together, all believers form the one “body of Christ,” still growing to the full stature of faith and love God wants for us. Through Christ the whole body grows and the members are kept in a loving union. The theme of unity is not as clear in the Gospel passage, yet somehow the Galileans slaughtered by Pontius Pilate and those who were killed by a falling tower at Siloam, were also linked with other men and women. Their fate shows how the innocent may suffer along with the guilty. While the Bible holds that suffering awaits sinful people, it does not follow that suffering people are always sinners; rather, much of the pain and loss suffered by people is caused by others, so close are the bonds of flesh, nationality, race and family.

On the more positive side, all of us are called to form one body in Christ, and we have each specific gifts to contribute to building up that body. Paul lists some of these active charisms : apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, in roles of service for the faithful to build up the body of Christ. Their diverse forms of service are for the good of the whole community, just as the various parts in the human body provides for its living functions. This analogy is more fully developed elsewhere, ” If all the members were alike, where would the body be?” (1 Cor 12:19).

Ideally, each Christian draws strength from the others and is helped by them. But sometimes the difference of gifts and roles can provoke envy, antagonism, and even dominance or arrogance. The administrator must not over-administer, the teacher not try to say the final word on all problems, the practical-minded person not totally abandon study and reflection, or the spiritual-minded person leave everything to prayer. Each gift must function in a genuine role of service “to build up the body of Christ,” in what we would now call a spirit of dialogue and collegiality!

Bearing fruit for God

Many of the parables leave us thinking and prompt us to tease out what they might mean. In this morning’s parable we have a fig tree in a vineyard that seems as good as dead. It has grown no fruit for three successive years. The reaction of the owner of the vineyard seems quite reasonable; have the tree cut down because it is only taking up space that could be used for vines. But the gardener had a different perspective. He looked at the apparently useless fig tree and he saw that it could still bear fruit. He had a more positive vision of the fig tree, a more hopeful vision. He felt all was not lost; there was still time for the fig tree to come good.

Surely this is how the Lord looks on us. God sees not just what we have failed to do in the past but what we are capable of doing in the future. He looks on us in a merciful, hopeful spirit. That is how we are to look at each other and, indeed, at every situation in life. Like the gardener, we need to be patient, be prepared to wait, and be able to look under the unpromising surface to the faint signs of new life that are stirring there.


(Saint Otteran, monk)

Otteran (or Odran) first lived in the area now known as Silvermines, County Tipperary, Ireland, building a church there in 520. Later he served served as abbot of Meath, and founded Lattreagh. Later still, in 563, he was among the twelve who accompanied Saint Columba to Iona in Scotland, where he died and was buried. The Vikings chose him as patron of their city of Waterford in 1096 and later he was named patron of that diocese.

5 Responses

  1. Joe O'Leary

    I think we should ask a question about the content of sermons.

    The complaint of many after Vatican II “Why don’t they preach the Ten Commandments any more?” had some merit.

    Preaching invariably on the Gospel of the day is not a formula for substantial instruction. Often we hear the preacher playing or fumbling about with some text on which he has nothing to say.

    Could there be some more coherent and helpful way of going about it — remembering that the weekly homily is usually the only time the faithful hear any communication about the faith?

  2. Stella Johnson

    My experience has taught me that some priests are very good at giving sermons others not so good- their theology leaves very much to be desired, Another factor is the fact that the Catholic Faith of our fathers has been watered down especially after Vatican II and most young people want to hear the truth. Until that situation changes we will still experience a lack of priests and religious vocations and still more lapsed mediocre and luke warm catholics. The homilies in this website are very uplifting and inspiring.

  3. Mary Vallely

    Stella, you state that, “Another factor is the fact that the Catholic Faith of our fathers has been watered down especially after Vatican II and most young people want to hear the truth.”

    That echoes what Archbishop Eamon Martin said at the end of the Youth Conference in Rome. It concerns me a bit as it seems like a desire to return to the rigidity of the past. You remember that Church that was judgmental, lacked compassion, had strict rules and regulations where priests, religious and theologians were dismissed, mostly presumably for questioning women’s ordination, celibacy or teaching on sexual morality with no recourse to appeal, where unmarried mothers and their ‘illegitimate’ children were treated like lepers, where LGBT people were made to feel like lesser human beings ( being told they were intrinsically disordered) etc; It was a stifling Church lacking warmth with no openness to learning and too proud to admit they needed to learn from others outside those closed patriarchal doors.

    I can see that some young people want that safety net of boundaries and certainty and the child-like dependency on “father knows best” ( mother hasn’t a voice) but it’s a dangerous world that doesn’t allow for flexibility and difference, dialogue and debate, openness, transparency and freedom of expression.

    I am not advocating a free-for-all, no boundary church as we do need rules but the greatest rule we have been told to obey is to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves. The Church has failed massively in many instances to emphasise this basic essential command. There are exceptions of course. Peter McVerry, S.J. Sr Stan and many, many others are leading by example. (BTW a very good interview in yesterday’s Irish Times with Peter.)

    I just quiver a bit when I read about my Archbishop on fire with passion coming back to Ireland as a sort of crusader thinking he KNOWS what young people want when he is only listening to a particular set of conservative youth all of whom, like himself, seem to be fixated on the pro-birth issue. Note I say pro-birth. The fixation on this particular pro-life issue above all others is worrying. Pro-life should mean caring right through to death, challenging homelessness, domestic abuse and injustices in all sections of the community. I am not denying he and others don’t care about these issues but they need to strike a balance.

    I suppose if we get the commandment right about love then we can’t go wrong. That’s what young people want emphasised. They find a lot of church attitudes to sexuality and particularly to women risible and youth can easily see through hypocrisy and injustice. Have a look at the acres of pink birettas filling your screens during the recent Synod and ask yourself where in God’s name the women are.

    To return to Stella’s plea not to water down the Catholic Faith I agree that we have some beautiful traditions and that there was a richness in our liturgies that has been lost. However to go back without acknowledging the need to examine and change attitudes and failing to accept responsibility for cruelties done to so many is not the way to go. And BTW love does mean having to say sorry. That schmaltzy film did a lot of damage too!

  4. Phil Greene

    Mary, I am truly in awe , you always get it just right !

  5. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    We have been in awe for years Phil. You want to get children back in Ireland – 2 easy steps.

    1. Embrace the Our Children’s Trust lawsuit and enact it in Ireland. It is Vatican backed and it is a “youth v. government” climate trial. I was a key supporter in the petition attempt and an argument presenter here on Sean McDonagh’s articles for years.

    2. Start a community fundraiser to green your parish space through “Parish Solar”, a 2 year plan to eliminate power costs for 25 years after only 2 years of dedication. This act is a part of the reparation the Vatican backed lawsuit calls for. The children don’t seek money; simply urgent action from all those involved and who could fund this with small monthly donations for 2 years. The kids will thank you for it.

    If anyone needs any supportive documentation for “Parish Solar” drop me a line at lloydmacpherson@hotmail.com

    Quick question : Who is this John Young I keep reading about?

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