Podcast: The art of a short homily
Synodality is not always an easy thing to describe. But for Father Iván Montelongo, “It is so concrete. It means walking together, but it means accompaniment. It means being there for somebody else, just as the Lord himself has decided to walk with us, has become a man and lived our same life with our struggles, with our issues.”
Iván Montelongo is a priest and canon lawyer serving in the Diocese of El Paso, Texas. Iván was raised in Mexico but completed high school in the United States. Though he was ordained in 2020, in the throes of Covid-19, he has already been called to significant responsibilities in his diocese: serving as vocation director, judicial vicar, and synod coordinator. He is also one of only six U.S. delegates personally chosen by Pope Francis to participate in the upcoming Synod on Synodality in Rome this October. We’re delighted to have Iván on “Preach” this month, where we are focusing our efforts around the theme of “Preaching for a more synodal church.”
Listen to Iván’s homily for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time on this week’s episode of “Preach.” After the homily, he shares with host Ricardo da Silva, S.J.—a Jesuit priest from South Africa, associate editor at America and associate pastor at the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Manhattan—how he brings the spirit of synodality to his preaching.
[Synodality] means accompaniment. It means being there for somebody else, just as the Lord himself has decided to walk with us, has become a man and lived our same life with our struggles, with our issues.
Scripture Readings for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
First Reading: Ez 18:25-28
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading: Phil 2:1-11
Gospel: Mt 21:28-32
You can find the full text of the readings here.
Homily for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, by Iván Montelongo
This Sunday we listen to what is perhaps the shortest parable of Jesus. Yet it is so universal we can all see ourselves in one of the two sons. I remember when I was a kid and my mom would ask me to do a chore in the house, I would often respond to her, “ahorita, ahorita—in a bit,” to later forget about it and find my mom doing it. The two sons are being asked something. They are asked to go on a journey from passivity to action. They are asked to work in the vineyard. In the Old Testament, the vineyard is a symbol of Israel, of God's chosen people. God is working among his people and he takes care of this vine. This vineyard is precious to him. It is God's desire to see the vine produce fruit and be prosperous—to fill the hearts of people with joy when they drink this wine. In this parable, the children of Israel are being asked to participate in the work of God, to tend to the precious vineyard of the Father. But the sons do not understand this calling that they are privileged to receive. They do not perceive the urgency of the task ahead of them: “I'll do it in a bit, ahorita, ahorita.”
In a sense, both sons are disobedient to the will of the Father. The father's invitation is loving, but it is met by the rudeness of the first son. And although the second son is respectful and reverent, he remains unmoved. It is like an empty reverence. The first son is at first concerned with his own problems only. He does not see beyond himself, and the second son speaks beautiful words that end up also being disconnected from the father's will. In the same way, each of us, we have all disobeyed the will of our Father, and that's okay. The Father does not demand perfection of his children. It's okay not to be perfect, but what is not okay is to stay there, to not continue walking. We need conversion. We need to get back on the path. We cannot stay on the realm of beautiful words that prevent us from recognizing the Father's will. Sometimes we are so concerned with perhaps saying the right thing, with believing the right thing, but we remain unmoved. We remain unmoved by the work that God wants to bring about in his precious vine.
The Father does not demand perfection of his children. It's okay not to be perfect, but what is not okay is to stay there, to not continue walking.This Sunday, Pope Francis is celebrating the opening mass of the Synod assembly in Rome. This Synod is an exercise of listening to the Holy Spirit and recognizing the will of God for his vineyard, for his church. The Synod calls us to let that voice touch our hearts so that we can get up from our couch and respond. Despite perhaps having rejected God's will at first, we can now embrace God's dream and accept this privilege of bringing about His kingdom. The Father calls each of us, “My child, go out and work in the vineyard today.” No matter what our response has been in the past, if it was rude or empty reverence, if it was outright rejection or beautiful words, if it was in a bit, I'll do it later. Today, we have the opportunity to be touched by God's dream, for his precious vineyard and to be on our way to make it a reality.