Sunday, May 29, 2016


Homily for May 30th, 2016: Mark 12:1-12.

          The story in today’s gospel would have reminded Jesus’ hearers of a similar story in the prophet Isaiah, about God planting a vineyard, namely his people whom he had delivered from slavery in Egypt, in a new land. God had lavished care on his vineyard, his people, only to find that they failed to produce the fruit he looked for. For this, Isaiah warned, there would be a day of reckoning. The parable in the gospel reading we have just heard gives a similar warning to the leaders of Jesus’ people, who are about to reject him. The vineyard God had given them would be taken away from them, Jesus warned them, and turned over to others.

          That warning is not obsolete. We can read it as addressed to us American Catholics. The position of influence we enjoy in the Church, because of our numbers and financial resources, will be taken away from us and given to Catholics in Third World countries, if our Catholicism is complacent, conventional, and lukewarm — while theirs is dynamic, daring, enthusiastic. 

          In 1974, forty-two years ago now, a Swiss priest, Fr. Walbert Bühlmann, wrote a book entitled The Coming of the Third Church. Bühlmann’s “Third Church” was the church of the southern hemisphere: Latin America, Africa, parts of Asia. By the end of the twentieth century, Bühlmann said, most of the world’s Catholics would live below the equator. The older churches of Europe and North America would no longer rank first. Folks, it has already happened. The majority of the world’s Catholics now live in the southern hemisphere. For the first time ever our Pope comes from south of the equator.

          As a 18th century English hymn has it: “God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform.”