27TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - A
Matthew 21: 33-43
In the history of salvation, God manifested his great love by entering into a covenant relationship with man. But what did God get in return? Rejection! Yet God remained faithful, loving and merciful.
In the book of the prophet Isaiah in the first reading, God is depicted as the vine dresser and Israel as the vineyard in this covenant-relationship. God gave the best of everything to Israel but Israel had always been unfaithful, stubborn and ungrateful. Jesus in the parable of the tenants reminded the Jews about their stewardship in the vineyard and predicted their obstinacy and the evil intention of their hearts. The Jews did not want to give the produce of the harvest because they wanted to take by force the vineyard to themselves. First they killed the Prophets who were God's messengers and eventually they killed the son of the owner. At the end, the parable of Jesus became his own living story: he was rejected and killed by his own people! The rejection of Jesus did not end with the Jews; there is a continuous hatred and rebellion against God. In the course of time we saw this in the attempt to suppress Christianity by all means in the different stages of Church history. One of these is the time of martyrdom which in spite of the shedding of the blood had always been the glorious and golden age of the Church. History will always be a silent witness of how evil tried to trample goodness underfoot with all the horrifying mechanisms of ethnic cleansing, genocide, “otherization”, religious war, all in the pseudo-name of justified cause for the advancement of humanity. We see this concretely in the present time when hundreds of thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters who by the witness of their faith were killed in the Middle East countries. We pray for those who are being persecuted and driven away from their lands and are experiencing many forms of inhumanity because of their religious belief. We pray for peace in the hearts of those who are in power to do such barbaric acts in the name of religion.
Since the beginning of time man had always wanted to seize power and to be in control. In short, there is this inner longing to become god! Self-sufficiency and egoism have always been the altars by which man elevates himself without the need of God. The deification of man will always be the temptation to prove man's supremacy over anything else that exists. This is not just true with atheism or pseudo-religions but more importantly even within the sacred walls of our own Church.
We come face to face with the dilemma of the presence of Church leaders and ministers who because of their weaknesses continue to wound the Body of Christ and also those who are faithful in their vocation yet being persecuted by their own ranks and by the world.
Where do we see ourselves in the parable? First we acknowledge the fidelity of God who in his great mercy and love gave us the best of everything. This privilege to be called in his vineyard (the Church) entails the corresponding responsibility of carrying in ourselves the seed of the Kingdom. With all the graces that we received, God prepared this seed to grow and mature so that it will yield fruits ready for the harvest at the appointed time. These fruits are the good works of our hands, small and grand, ready to be shared to the world. We may have laboured and toiled to the best of our abilities but it was God who brought them to fruition. The tenants in the parable refused to give the fruits of the harvest to the owner of the vineyard because they thought it was theirs to keep. When we have done something good, we acknowledge the goodness of God bursting into the world. We are just mere stewards of charity by which God blesses others so that those who have less in life will have a little bit more when they receive a part of our selves.
Our arms are too short to strangle God; our hands are too weak to kill him. God is in control, not us; God is the one glorified, not us.