Saturday, October 01, 2011

'The fruit of the Kingdom is Justice' (Sunday homily)

Let’s pick up on the last words we just heard:
What is the fruit of the Kingdom?

The first reading tells us: the fruit of the Kingdom,
the fruit God is looking for, is justice.

In Biblical terms, justice is about the good of the whole;
the good of the whole of each person,
and the good of society as a whole.

God’s definition of justice doesn’t fit our political system very well.

You have one group that will say, it’s all about economic justice.
They’ll pursue every avenue to shift the resources around.
The striking thing is, it’s all supposed to be for the poor;
and yet the poor somehow always stay poor.

But I also have to admit my own bias.
I can afford to be dispassionate about poverty,
When I’m warm and well fed.
It becomes a lot more urgent and real
when you don’t know where you’re sleeping tonight.

But there’s also a disconnect here.
We have some who are hard-chargers for economic justice,
but when it comes to passing laws to protect the unborn,
they’ll say, “that’s different.”
And it happens in reverse, too:
Folks who will work tirelessly for the unborn,
but economic justice? “That’s different!”

Whether or not you like the laws we have,
we do have laws regulating business and the economy.
And yet, somehow,
a law protecting the unborn is too much to ask?
We protect unborn fish and unborn birds—
but not unborn human beings!

Another way God’s justice doesn’t fit our categories
is when we draw lines: marking how far our concern will reach.
Parish lines, family lines, national boundaries.

Sometimes we draw a line between justice and compassion—
As if they can’t go together.
So when someone breaks the rules or breaks the law,
they no longer get compassion.

Case in point: our prison system.
We all know ugly things happen in prison.
When’s the last time you heard a politician
run for office promising to address it?

In God’s Vineyard, justice is not only the fruit God expects,
it’s also what’s needed to make for a good crop.

God knows his Vineyard can produce abundantly.
But the tenants somehow come up empty-handed.
There’s not enough.

If there is one truth both Scripture and experience confirms,
it is that scarcity is a result of human sin, not God’s failure to provide.

Our world has abundant food.
Here and in many countries, we throw away perfectly good food
just because it doesn’t look good enough.
We turn a lot of our food into fuel.
We have countries that can grow food, but don’t,
because of war and corruption.

And yet the claim keeps being made that there’s not enough,
And the solution is fewer people.

So our government has, for years,
used our tax money to distribute birth control worldwide.

Well, turns out the experts who pushed this message all these years,
are now changing their tune.
China, they now admit, will get old before it gets rich: too few children.

Europe, Japan, Russia are all facing the same problem.

We’re the stewards of the Vineyard.
And we’re the ones saying to God, there’s not enough.

Is this why our economy is a wreck? Our world is in crisis?
How badly we’ve mismanaged his Vineyard!

Instead of telling God—and each other—
the problem is his Vineyard,
we have to admit, whether as individuals or as a society,
that the problem is how we approach it.

Sometimes we measure “enough” by the wrong things.
I didn’t like my brother’s hand-me-downs as a boy—
but I had plenty of clothes.
We didn’t have a lot of extra food, but we had enough;
And when mom gave leftovers a French name,
that make all the difference.

These are hard times, and we can’t minimize that.
But I think a lot of us are rediscovering values we forgot about.
The “enough” we have may be a lot simpler.
Not cable or new things, but time with family and friends.

The gift of Faith; the gift of compassion.
These are things we never have a shortage of.


pdn said...

I really enjoyed your homily. I would prefer some Bible passages that support your point that "The fruit of the Kingdom is Justice", but your application about the good of the whole person was well stated and made me examine myself. I always thought the mosaic law (Ruth 2:3) claiming the rich man who owns the field should harvest once and then leave the gleanings for the poor to gather was a very good example for both rich and poor; Charity is important - but work is important for human self-respect (the good of the whole). I appreciate that you did not utilize the politicized "social justice" as your referent. My son has already been told his freshman year at a Jesuit school that he and his parents are probably oppressors. Your homily is much more persuasive and generates a desire to do more for human misery than any politicized version of the fruit of the Kingdom.

I am continually edified by your blog.

Thank you,

Fr Martin Fox said...



Well, as far as supporting my point, simply look at the first reading from Sunday.

The Lord came looking for fruit...he found wild fruit.

Here's the relevant passage:

"What more could be done for my vineyard that I did not do? Why, when I waited for the crop of grapes, did it yield rotten grapes?...

"The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, the people of Judah, his cherished plant; He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!"

As you can see, it is the Isaiah passage that links justice to the fruit; instead of finding justice, God found "bloodshed" and "outcry."