and given to a people that will produce its fruit."
The chief priests and elders listening to Jesus must have been furious. After telling the parable about the tenants who abused the owner's property and killed his son, Jesus had a tough lesson to teach. He compared the Jewish leaders to these terrible tenants. They, like the selfish workers in the vineyard, were guilty of not respecting proper authority and of trying to seize control--not of grapes, in this case, but of religious matters. In short, they were not bearing fruit for God's kingdom, but only for their own prestige and privilege.
Before we spend too much time criticizing them, however, we would do well to examine ourselves. If Jesus were standing in our midst right now, would he have a similar warning for us? We may not be religious leaders, but we are like those tenants in many ways because we have been made stewards of the gifts of God. We receive his help and grace through the sacraments, for example. Are we good stewards of this grace, or do we take it for granted and fail to nourish it to produce good fruit?
And what about the personal gifts that God has entrusted to each of us? We all have certain skills, talents, experiences, and opportunities thanks to God's work in our lives. Do we make the most of these things or do we settle for the easy road? Do we thank God for them or consider them to be our own?
God has trusted us with a place in the world, HIS world. He is the ultimate authority here and all things we enjoy come from his hands. May we have the humility and gratitude to use his gifts for his glory and not just our own.
LIVE THE LITURGY
How often do we find ourselves wanting what is not ours? Greed, envy, and even gluttony lead us to a bad end. We live in a world that feels very entitled. Many people believe that wants and needs ought to be provided or simply given to them, without any work or effort. It is easy to feel that we have received the short end of the stick or less than what we deserve. However, feeling shortchanged makes it is impossible to walk with gratitude in our hearts and feel a sense of responsibility, the two essential elements of the spiritual life. Are we grateful?
QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK
Matthew 21:33-43 Like the prophet Isaiah, Jesus uses vineyard imagery to confront the religious leaders of Jerusalem. How does this parable of the tenants provoke an examination of conscience in your own life?
Isaiah 5:1-7 The prophet Isaiah sang this "vineyard song" to the ancient Israelites around the year 740 BC, twenty years before the invasion of the Assyrian Empire. Why do you think the Israelites did not take seriously Isaiah's prophetic warning?
Philippians 4:6-9 Paul writes to the Philippians about how to find "the peace of God." When have you experienced God's peace?
October 15, 2017
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
"My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?"
Today's Gospel parable is unsettling in several ways. The various images of rejection, mistreatment, and violence paint an unpleasant picture. Guests refuse to come to a feast, servants are killed, troops are dispatched. The King continues to try to fill his dinner hall, and then when someone finally does show up, the King throws him out for wearing the wrong clothes. What is going on here?
The message would have been a poignant one for his Jewish listeners. As the chosen people, they were the first to receive the "invitation" to share in the kingdom of God. But the chief priests and elders were uninterested in accepting Jesus and his authority; thus they didn't show up for the feast. But what about those who did come? Something is expected of them as well. Donning a "wedding garment" is like being properly prepared to enter God's kingdom. Just showing up isn't enough.
Here it's important to pay attention to the details. The King first calls his poorly dressed guest "friend." The approach begins with mercy and kindness. But the man gives no defense for himself, and displays no desire to change. It's as if he doesn't really care to be there at all.
The question this raises for us is whether or not we are "dressed" appropriately. We may hang around the banquet hall--going to church, professing to be Christian--but are we sincere guests of the King of kings? Do we truly accept Christ's teachings and live by them, or are we just showing up? The splendors of the invitation Christ gives us should not be taken for granted. We are called to share in a royal feast. May we all be grateful guests.
Live the Liturgy
Pope Francis constantly reminds us of the wideness of God's mercy and its unconditional character. God is always patiently loving his children and opening the doors to his heart. We must, however, freely choose to accept God's invitation and join in the feast of his love. We desire many things and we have restless hearts. We often attempt to quench our desire with things that are short-lived and shallow. All of us long to be satisfied and at peace. How do we announce to the world, in ways that are convincing and without judgment, that it is really God whom we seek?
Questions of the Week
Reflect and Respond to Scripture
Matthew 22:1-14 or 22:1-10
Jesus' parable of the wedding feast ends in a startling way. How do you know if you are properly dressed for the wedding feast (the return of Christ)?
Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah foreshadows the messianic age to come with lush imagery. What does this imagery reveal to you about God's nature?
Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
Paul informs the Philippians he has learned the secret of living well under any circumstance: find strength in Christ. How is this true in your life?