Patient Parent and Just Judge
GUIDING LIGHT - Rev. Fr. Benjamin Sim, Sj (The Freeman) - October 7, 2017 - 4:00pm

Are you unhappy in your search for happiness?  Then listen to St. Paul in today’s reading,

especially the opening sentence.  If you can do what he says, you will find a deep and lasting peace.

St. Paul tells us to “Dismiss all anxiety from our minds.”  He then explains how to do it

and confidently predicts the results.

What do we mean by anxiety?  Webster defines anxiety as “a painful uneasiness of mind over some anticipated ill.”

It is not the same as fear.  Fear is a reality, but an anxiety is only imaginary.  For example: if you see some suspicious looking men armed with high-powered firearms trying to break into your house, you have good reason to fear.   But, if you hear a creaking noise and you imagine it’s a ghost roaming around your house, you have anxiety.  Most anxiety never materialize into real fears, but they can drive you crazy with worry.

Paul says to dismiss them, send them away, and don’t let them clutter up your mind.  A major step toward dismissing anxieties is to tell our needs and troubled feelings to God in prayer, and to place renewed trust and confidence in Him as a loving Father.

We have two strong knees, which can lessen the strain of an anxious heart.  So calm your anxieties, and quiet your heart.

There are many situations, which we can’t control.  But we can learn to accept and defuse our anxieties by realizing God’s constant love for us.  We must confidently trust that all will work for the best.

One day, a lady sitting in a hospital waiting room noticed a man staring at her.  She became upset and angrily glared back at him, but he didn’t turn away.  Finally, she walked up to him and said,

“I don’t appreciate you staring at me.”  He replied, “I wasn’t staring at you.  I’m blind.”  How often do we become our own worst tormentor.

In the Gospel, we see that Jesus was a master in the use of stories and parables.  Stories and parables are such effective means of communication because they speak to the heart to reveal an important truth.  Today’s parable is especially instructive.

First, of all, it summarizes the entire Biblical story of salvation.  For example, the vineyard stands for the people of Israel, as today’s first reading points out.  The vineyard owner is God.  The tenant farmers stand for the chief priests and Pharisees, whom God put in charge of his people.

The servants in the first group, whom the owner sends to the tenant farmers to get his share of the grapes, are the early prophets whom God sent to Israel.

The servants in the second group are the later prophets.  The owner’s son, who is killed by the tenant farmers, is Jesus.  The new tenant farmers to whom the owner leases his vineyard, are the Apostles of Jesus.  They replace the chief priests and Pharisees as the new leaders of God’s people.

Finally the first leasing of the vineyard refers to the old covenant.  And the second leasing of the vineyard refers to the new covenant.  And so the parable is a beautiful summary of the entire biblical story of salvation.  It’s a miniature Bible within the Bible.

Besides giving as a summary of the entire biblical story, the parable also reveals to us about three things:

1)  It tells us something about God.

a) It tells of God’s trust in men.  The owner of the vineyard entrusted it to the tenants.  He did not even stand over them to exercise a police-like supervision.  He went away and left them with their task.  God pays men the compliment of entrusting them with his work.  Every task we receive is a task given us to do by God.

b) It tells of God’s patience.  The master sent messenger after messenger.  He did not come with sudden vengeance when one messenger had been abused and ill-treated.  He gave the tenants chance after chance to respond to his appeal.  God bears with men in all their sinning

and will not cast them off.

c) It tells of God’s judgment. In the end the master of the vineyard took the vineyard from the tenants and gave it to others.  God’s sternest judgment is when he takes out of our hands the task, which he meant us to do.

A Sunday cartoon shows a man asking Fr. Flood, “Is it true that God always gives you another chance? Fr. Flood answers, “Up to a point.” “What point?” asks the man. “Here, Look at today’s paper,” says Fr. Flood. “What part?” asks the man. “The obituaries,” came the answer.

2) The parable also reveals some truths about men.

a) It tells of human privilege.  The vineyard was equipped with everything –

the hedge, the wine press, the tower – which would make the task of the tenants easy and enable them to discharge it well.  God does not only give us a task to do; He also gives us the means whereby to do it.

b) It tells us of human freedom.  The master left the tenants to do the task as they liked. God is no tyrannical task-master; He is like a wise commander who allocates a task and then trusts a man to do it.

It tells of human accountability.  To all men comes a day of reckoning.  We are accountable for the way in which we have carried out the task God gave us to do. It tells of the deliberateness of human sin.

The tenants carry out a deliberate policy of rebellion and disobedience towards the master.  Sin is a deliberate opposition to God.  It is the taking of our own way when we know quite well what the way of God is.

3.  It has much to tell us about Jesus.

a) It tells of the claim of Jesus.  It shows us quite clearly Jesus lifting himself out of the succession of prophets.  Those who come before him were the messengers of God; no one could deny them that honor; but they were servants, while Jesus was the Son.  This parable contains one of the clearest claims Jesus ever made to be unique, to be different from even the greatest of those who were sent before.

b) It tells of the sacrifice of Jesus.  It makes it clear that Jesus knew what lay ahead.  In the parable the wicked men killed the son.  Jesus was never in any doubt of what lay ahead.  He did not die because he was compelled to die; he went willingly and open-eyed to death.

What does the parable say to us?  This much is clear.  We need to know that God is a patient parent.  For too many years God was tragically looked upon as Someone who was more eager to punish than to love – someone to be feared.

Now, however, the pendulum is in danger of swinging in the opposite direction and giving us

an equally distorted picture of God.  Distorted pictures, however, are not what we need at this moment in history.  What we need is truth.

And that’s what we find in today’s readings: the Gospel truth about God.  God is both a patient parent and a just judge.

Let’s close with a time-honored prayer by Pope Clement XI:

 

“Lord, I believe in you; give me firmer faith.

I hope in you; give me surer hope.

I love you; make me love you more and more.

 

“I adore you as my first Beginning,

And long for you as my last End.

I praise you as my constant Benefactor,

And call upon you as my gracious Protector.

“Guide me in your wisdom,

Restrain me by your justice,

Comfort me by your mercy,

Defend me by your power.

 

“I offer you

My thoughts, to be fixed on you;

My words, to have you as their theme;

My actions, to be done according to your will.”

Amen.

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