Is 5:1-7; Phil 4:6-9; Matt 21:33-43
In 1978, a man traveled to Cincinnati in USA to attend the funeral of Max Ellenbusch. Max had been like a father to this man for 20 years. Nothing unusual except that, as 15 year-old, this man had taken his mother’s car and struck and killed Max’s five-year old son. This was a week before Christmas in 1978.
Soon after the accident, a surprised court heard Max asked that charges be dropped. Instead, he wanted to give the death-car driver a job and help toward his education. Max did all that and more virtually adopting the 15-year old boy into his family. Max shared his home, time and understanding with the troubled youth.
We might wonder, “How could Max do that? I could never befriend with a teenager who had just killed my five-year old son. Max must have been a little crazy to go out of his way that much to become like a father for that way.”
If Max was a little bit crazy, so is God. The parable of today’s gospel depicts God as a landowner who prepared a beautiful vineyard and gives it to his people to tend. When harvest time came, he sent his servants for twice but they killed them all. It is because the people wanted not just their share of their harvest, but the whole thing. The vineyard is again, Israel; the planters the Jews; the messengers, the prophets and leaders to His people to lead them back to Him; but they rejected and killed them often. Lastly, he sent his son because he presumed that they will respect him, but they killed him too. He knew already what was happening and yet he still sent his son. Lastly, he sent his son because he presumed that they will respect him, but they killed him too. He knew already what was happening and yet he still sent his son. He is crazy. That is because God’s love for us is without condition. But as a consequence, the Jewish race lost its vineyard which was given to the “pagans”, that is we who have received the faith of Jesus.
This parable is also a warning to us Christians and for each one of us personally. Is our being Christians just fulfilling minimum obligations like Sunday Mass going, receiving Holy Communion? Is being married contented only of merely doing the minimum duties?
I know of a husband who is faithfully and devoted to his wife showering her with endearing words of his eternal love. But one day he said to his wife: “What is the matter? I have done anything to you. I did not commit adultery; not engaged in gambling and I did not hit you.”
The wife replied: “That is the problem. You have not done anything. You have not done to show your affections…”
This parable is a warning to us because, as Christians, we must accept God’s messengers, prophets, teachers, the hierarchy itself and the Pope and anyone who helps us read the signs of the times and see in them the loving hand of God who urges us to produce “good fruits. These signs would immediately pinpoint areas of deep trouble in our weak faith: immorality in the family, corruptions in the government and scandalous injustices from top to bottom in our society today. We cannot afford too, to be complacent and rest on our traditional forms of piety hoping that being Christians will give us salvation. The Jewish people were deeply religious too and yet lost the Kingdom because their fruits were nowhere to be found.
To be true Christians mean and not to say: “I have not done anything wrong.” Christianity is a question of what we have not done but what we do or can do.
Many Catholics are going to Mass on Sundays and are receiving Holy Communion. These are very good things. But if we only remain here in this part and not doing any effort to grow in our faith, we are neglecting one of the purposes of the Eucharist, i.e. to show our love for God in our day-to-day life or fight obvious injustices or alleviate the miseries of our suffering brothers and sisters. Also, by loving those who hate us, by forgiving even those who committed grievous sins against us. And by doing so, we become like God who love without condition those who committed sins against Him.
So let us then work hard to make our faith produce real fruits of justice and love. Otherwise, the Lord might take away from us our vineyard.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A