October 5, 2008

My Life as God’s Vineyard

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 21:33-43

One day the student said to himself, “I will make sure that my master will make a mistake. He brought a small bird in his hand and said, “Master, is the bird in my hand, dead or alive?” If the master will say it’s alive, the student will simply squeeze the bird to death. If the master will say its dead, the student will simply release the bird. But the master simply said, “The answer is in your hand.”

In our gospel today, one may ask how come that the tenants killed all the servants sent by the landowner including his son? What compelled him to do so? The reason is because the tenants have no produce to give to the landowner. The best way to escape from their responsibility is by killing all the servants of the landowner. The parable is a direct and blatant condemnation of Jesus against the Pharisees. Jesus told the Pharisees that God gave them the vineyard of God. They were trusted to do something for the kingdom of God but they did not bear fruit. The servants sent by landowner were the prophets of the Old Testament, but the Pharisees did not listen to the prophets. They even killed them. Jesus was the son in the parable. He was sent by God the Father, unfortunately, the Pharisees and the scribes did not listen to Jesus and even killed him.

It seems that our gospel is also challenging us to evaluate our own life. God also trusted us with our own vineyard and the name of our vineyard is OUR LIFE! We may even include our family, our work, school, or even our community as our vineyards. The question being posted to us is, “If the Lord sends his servants to us now, do we have fruits or produce to show?” Can we proudly welcome the arrival of God’s servants and tell them that we have something to show or to give to our God … the owner of our Life? Can we say that we are doing something for our family? For our school? For our work? For our country? We don’t know the reason why the tenants failed to produce fruits from the vineyard - maybe because of laziness, or irresponsibility and other reasons.

Our gospel reveals two important characteristics of God. First, God trusted us so much even to the point of leaving his vineyard to our care. He trusts us so much with our life, with our family and with our community, in the hope that we will do something productive and creative. Second, God is so patient and forgiving. It is surprising that the landowner did not react violently against the tenants after all his servants were killed. He even sent another batch to his vineyard but only to be killed. Finally he sent his son to convince the tenants to give their share of the produce. We do have a very patient and forgiving God - a God who continues to give us another chance to change and produce fruits. But it is good to note also that God’s mercy has limits. In the end, the justice of God will prevail especially for those who have no intentions of changing their lives, “Therefore I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produce its fruits.”

But how do we produce bountiful fruits in our vineyards? In our lives? The second reading says something about it: “ Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Put into practice what you have learned and received from me.” (Phil 4:8-9).

It is unfortunate that sometimes we blame God or we blame other people to the miseries and misfortunes in our life, in our family, or in our community. We should blame ourselves and not God. When we come to the Lord and ask him, “Lord, will my life or my family be miserable in the future?” The Lord will simply say, “The answer is in your hands… not mine.”

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