Listening to the Master
In short, the Sunday readings bring home a very important idea that is taking care of God's vineyard. This Old Testament symbol "vineyard" tells about Israel (Isaiah 5:1-7), the Church and the Kingdom of God. Ultimately, God is the planter or the owner of this vineyard and we are just tenants or workers in the vineyard. Vineyard gives job to people, grapes to eat, beauty to eyes and wine to drink. In other words, vineyard gives security and solace to the one who does his or her job well. Unless and until we get back to the plan that God has for us, we would be remaining idle in the vineyard. Someone said, "an idle mind is a devil's workshop". Therefore, our job is just doing the job the owner has called us to do and not undoing what God intended for us. Jesus wants us to listen to him, listen to the owner of the vineyard who may appear in different persons.
Getting back to doing God's will
Perhaps it would be good to start with the parable of the wicked tenants in the vineyard that Jesus speaks about in Mathew's gospel (21: 33-43). It's a parable full of imageries and expressions. No one wants to get back to one's horrific past life. Jesus does the very thing of going back to the life of Israelites, his ancestors through this parable. He throughly punches them with his bold statements. The parable or a story can be used very powerfully to get the point straightaway. 'The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it" (Matthew 21:42-43). Those who are considered useless, unfruitful, barren, unworthy, nameless will be considered to a primary job or take the front seats as Jesus himself says in another place, "those who are the last will be the first and the first will be the last" (Mt 20:16). Moreover, Jesus emphasises also those who are not ready to be fruitful and will be taken away all that belongs to them rightfully. Awfully, Jesus is critiquing the system which has become dysfunctional and disaster because the will of God has no place in that system.
Going back to history helps us to make amendments:
History teaches us. Our life is full of historical evidences. It might not have been written but it's written in the book of life of each one! When he refers to those servants who were sent to the tenants, Jesus is talking about those judges, prophets, holy priests of Israel. Prophet Jeremiah was beaten and kept in the cistern where he sank in the mud (Jeremiah 20:2; 38:1-11). Zechariah was killed by stoning him in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple (2 Chronicles 24: 21). So too prophet Uriah was killed (Jeremiah 26:21-23). The list is endless and finally it ends with the killing of Jesus that too not inside the city of Jerusalem but outside on Golgotha, in the words of Jesus himself "outside the vineyard walls". We can easily assume that the history seems to be very cruel to good and righteous people. What mattered to the wicked people was eliminating those still small voices which threatened the empire of lies, greed, corruption, nepotism and pride. The stark reality of our world may be disheartening and deplorable. Look at the political leaders that we have in our world today. Hardly anyone of them could be called Statesmen. In this week we have once again noticed the cruelty of humanity in the brutal death of a young 19 year old girl in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh and how the criminality has entered every blood cell of those who are in the politics of power. In this ruthlessness St Augustine reminds: "Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume; one of the thieves was condemned."
Following the first call
Where is that vineyard of the Lord that Jesus refers to? It is not somewhere in unknown galaxies. It is here and now. Each one of us is a vine in the vineyard of the Lord who hold on to that main vine Jesus Christ (John 15:1–8). As long as we are part of Christ's life we will be able to bear fruits of righteousness and truth "to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:11). And in the words of St James, "He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created" (James 1:18).
St Paul calls us to follow that path which brings us to God for a happy end. In place of anxiety let "prayer and supplication with thanksgiving" be made known to God (Philippians 4:6). The Angelic doctor St. Thomas Aquinas would say our prayers don’t change God. But when we pray, God changes us. That means we must allow God to act in our lives. Further St Paul writes so beautifully which we should memorise by heart.
I am sure that each one of us is part of that first call to be honourable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and worthy of praise. That is, we need to fill our hearts and minds with noble intentions and virtuous deeds and rejoicing always in the Lord. This is possible when we do, learn, receive, hear and see from the holy works of St Paul. Finally, the grace we receive is only one that is resting of God's peace in us.
Questions to ponder
1. Is there something that God is asking you to do today?
2. Who do you think Jesus means when he talks about the landowner, the tenants? What does the vineyard represent?
3. Who are the people I don’t even think worthy of my consideration? The people I don’t bother with?
4. Can I imagine for a moment how they might be part of God’s plan – a plan that I am rejecting?
Speak to God now as freely as you can. In your own words, tell the Lord what all this has stirred in your heart, how you respond, or want to respond, to his word.
Let me meditatively pray now:-
God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, and Spirit of God amidst us, direct our way unto you in being honourable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and worthy of praise. Make us to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men and women, even as we do toward you; thus your voice could be heard in our hearts, in the heart of the Church which is called to live in communion. We pray in the midst of suffering and pandemic not to worry or despair but listen to you with our hearts and minds with noble intentions and doing virtuous deeds and rejoicing always in You. Thus we may be unblemished in our holiness and joy ever green and fresh that which cannot be taken away by anyone. AMEN.
- Olvin Veigas, SJ
03 October 2020