Senseless Violence

Posted in: Homilies

October 8, 2017 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

October 8, 2017
Matthew 21:33
Fr. George Smiga

Senseless violence, that is what controlled the news cycle this week. A gunman in Las Vegas kills 58 people and wounds 489 others, and even after a week of intensive inquiry no one can explain why he did it. Senseless violence, a violence that continues in our country through shootings and terrorist attacks year after year. There is also senseless violence in today’s gospel parable. So it only makes sense to ask what the parable might say to our own violent landscape.

In the parable, a landowner sends servants to obtain his produce at harvest time. But instead of doing what is right, the tenants kill his servants and eventually his son. At first it seems that the owner of the vineyard will continue the violence. Jesus asks the crowd, “What will the owner of that vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” The crowd answers, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death.” The crowd answers this way because they presume that violence will continue, that violence will beget more violence. The crucial question is: Is their presumption correct? Is this what the parable is telling us?

There’s reason to believe that it is not. Jesus does not accept their answer of the crowd. Instead he quotes to them Psalm 118, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Now this psalm is used throughout the New Testament to refer to Jesus’s death and resurrection. We read this psalm on Easter day. Jesus is the stone who the powers of this world have rejected, but through his resurrection he has become the cornerstone of a new building, the foundation of a new people. So if we see the owner of the vineyard as representing God, this parable tells us that God does not respond to violence with more violence. God responds to violence with Jesus. God does not put those who crucified Jesus to a wretched death. Instead God raises up Jesus and makes him the foundation of a new people, a people who are called to oppose violence in our world.

When we read today’s parable from this perspective it is a reminder to us that God is committed to destroying the evil of this world and God calls us to participate in bringing that evil to an end. But how are you and I supposed to bring about the end of violence in our society? I have no idea. I, like you, have been thinking all week what could be done to stop this senseless violence that keeps repeating in our midst. Maybe Congress can do something. Maybe the President can do something. Maybe social services could help. But it all seems too little. It all seems hopeless.

Our faith tells us that it is not hopeless. Our faith tells us that God is committed to bringing an end to the violence of our society and that God calls us to participate in that effort. How will God bring about the end of violence? Somehow it will involve us, but God’s ways are not clear. But what is clear is that we must not give up hope. We must not say that it is inevitable that violence continue. Because our God is committed to bring an end to violence, and our God can be trusted. We believe that one day God’s will will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

Now is it difficult to believe that the cycle of senseless violence in our society can be brought to an end? It is. But it is no harder than believing that a man who was dead in a tomb for three days was raised up to new life. Our God is real. Our God did raise up Jesus from the dead. Our God is committed to bring about the elimination of evil from our world. That is why we must never give up hope. That is why we must commit ourselves to work against violence and some day participate in God’s victory.

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