The curse of the monster watermelonsOnce upon a time, there was a man who traveled to a strange land. There he saw people fleeing in horror from a wheat field. There was a horrible monster in the field! they screamed. The traveler went into the field himself and found the monster – a watermelon. The villagers had never seen a watermelon before. Trying to be kind, he offered to “kill” the monster for them. He hacked the melon off the vine and then cut a slide and began to eat it. The people became even more terrified of the traveler. He will eat us too! they cried, and then drive him off with their pitchforks.
Some time later, another traveler to same village found himself confronted by the same “monster.” But instead of offering to “kill” the monster, he told the villagers that it must be dangerous and tiptoed away from it. Gaining the confidence of the villagers, the second traveler was able to teach the villagers some elementary horticultural facts about the “monster” in their midst. The villagers lost their fear of the melons and began to cultivate them for food.
The first traveler, while trying to help the villagers, only intensified their fear; his knowledge became even more powerful and terrifying to the villagers.
But the second traveler was a man of compassion: he entered into their fears, suffered with them, and then was able to help them rise above their fears.
From Fr. Jude Botelho:
The stone the builders rejected became the corner stone
South Africa is a country blessed by God in a great many ways. But the country which should have been a haven for all the peoples of Southern Africa became instead a heaven for a privileged white minority. Many people tried in vain to change South Africa’s apartheid system. Finally Nelson Mandela appeared on the scene. He too tried to bring about reforms. But like reformers before him, he was rejected. Worse, he was hounded by the government, and ended up spending twenty-seven years in prison. However, he not only survived prison, but came out of it with the respect of his enemies and of the entire world. Furthermore, he came out without bitterness. In fact, he came out smiling, and immediately sought reconciliation with the leaders of the regime that kept him, in prison. But even greater things were to follow. The man once rejected was to become the President of a new multi-racial South Africa. The stone which the builders rejected became the cornerstone of a new and better building.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies’
In today’s gospel the story that Jesus tells could be considered an allegory, a mirror story, which could give insight into ourselves. Today’s story is about God and the human race and it uses a metaphor to describe the relationship, -the vineyard and the workers in the vineyard. Looking at the story as an allegory, we see distinct elements in the story mirroring Israel and its relationship with God, and consequently we can see ourselves in our present-day relationship with Him. The vineyard becomes Israel, God’s people and the vinedressers their religious leaders. Each successive emissary of the landlord stands for the succession of Old Testament prophets that God sent to his people who were rejected and killed. The sending of the son was the sending of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who was crucified by the people. The murder of the son is seen as the rejection not only of Jesus but also a rejection of who and what he stood for, the message of salvation, rejected by the chosen people and their leaders. The threat that the vineyard will be taken away and given to the nation that brings forth fruit is seen as a reminder that if we are not accountable for what we have received God could take away the gift and give it to others who are more responsive. In the case of Israel, since they rejected God’s offer, the good news is shared with the gentles and all those who are ready to live according to God’s precepts and commands. Where do we see ourselves in the story?
Losing our inheritance
Can they see who we are?
1) Warnings ignored: Recently the New York Times Magazine showed a series of photographs of a rock formation in Yosemite National Park near Bridal Veil Falls. A prominent sign in yellow plastic was attached to the rocks which clearly said: “Danger. Climbing or scrambling on rocks and cliffs is extremely dangerous. They are slippery when dry or wet. Many injuries and even fatalities have occurred.” One picture showed a woman walking on the rocks in a tight dress and high heels. Another showed a couple walking on the rocks. The man was carrying his dog apparently because he thought it was too slippery for the dog. Another showed a man carrying a month-old baby in his arms while walking on the rocks. (“Slippery Slope in Yosemite” New York Times Magazine, September 9, 1994, p. 14.) What causes us to ignore clear warnings? Why do folks rip the plastic cover off a pack of cigarettes when all of us know the surgeon general’s warning by heart? Why do people remove the safety shield from power saws? Why do people ignore their doctor’s warnings about being overweight and under exercised? Why do entire civilizations ignore warnings about pollution, or the revolutionary pressures that economic and political injustice creates? Today’s Gospel tells us how the Jewish religious leadership ignored the even the final warning given by Jesus after Palm Sunday. (https://youtu.be/kAvhslwxMPU)
(Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) Wild vines in the Lord’s vineyard. In his book From Scandal to Hope, Fr. Benedict Groeschel (EWTN), examines the roots of the clergy sex-abuse scandal. He details how disloyalty spread through seminaries, universities, chanceries and parishes. The most notorious case was that of Fr. Paul Shanley who helped found the North American Man-Boy Love Association in 1979. He lectured in seminaries, once with a bishop in attendance, maintaining that “homosexuality is a gift of God and should be celebrated,” and that there was no sexual activity that could cause psychic damage– “not even incest or bestiality.” No wonder Fr. Charles Curran had little trouble getting seventy-seven theologians to sign a protest against Humanae Vitae, an encyclical which reaffirmed marital chastity! A few years later the Catholic Theological Society (CTS), published Human Sexuality: New Directions in American Catholic Thought, a study which accepted cohabitation, adultery and homosexuality. Now, however, all these chickens have come home to roost. We are paying the price – in lawsuits, public humiliation and loss of credibility. The media gave us a glimpse of the enormous destruction in the Lord’s vineyard done by those wicked tenants. They did so with great relish because the scandals discredit a teaching authority, they, by and large, find annoying. But this attention by the media has had consequences the media probably did not intend. It has alerted Catholics to the widespread pillaging of the vineyard, which ultimately means the damnation of souls. Fr. Groeschel asks, “Does all this scandal shake your faith in the Church?” He answers, “I hope so, because ultimately your Faith should not be in the Church. Ultimately your Faith is in Jesus Christ. It is because of him that we accept and support the Church. We believe in and belong to the Church because Christ established it on his apostles.” — We see in today’s Gospel that the owner of the vineyard is God. He will care for his Church, not by committees or documents, but by raising up saints who will properly tend the vineyard. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) Rejected stone becoming the cornerstone: A girl named Kristi Yamaguchi was born to a young couple whose parents had emigrated to the U.S. from Japan in the early twentieth century. Unfortunately, one of her feet was twisted. Her parents tried to heal her by means of physical therapy. To strengthen her legs further they enrolled her in an ice-skating class. Kristi had to get up at four AM on school days to do her practice in the ice rink before she went to school. This helped her to develop into a world-class figure-skater. Believe it or not, in 1992 Kristi won the gold medal for the United States in women’s figure-skating at the XVI Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, 1992. Kristi thus became one of the several examples of “the stone rejected by the builders becoming a cornerstone,” in this case, of the U.S. Women’s Olympic team. Kristi is very passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of children. In 1996, Kristi established the Always Dream Foundation whose mission is to encourage, support and, embrace the hopes and dreams of children. — In today’s Gospel, after telling the parable of the wicked tenants, Jesus prophesies that, rejected by the Jewish nation, he will become the cornerstone of the Kingdom of God. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
24 Additional anecdotes:
1) The rejected cornerstone: There was a legend, well-known in New Testament times, that in the building of God’s Temple by Solomon, most of the stones were of the same size and shape. One stone arrived, however, that was different from the others. The builders took one look at it and said, “This will not do,” and sent it rolling down into the valley of Kedron below. The years passed and the great Temple was nearing completion, and the builders sent a message to the stonecutters to send the chief cornerstone that the structure might be complete. The cutters replied that they had sent the stone years before. Then someone remembered the stone that was so different from all the rest that it somehow did not seem to belong. They realized that they had thrown away the cornerstone. They hurried into the valley to retrieve it. Finally, from under vines and debris, they recovered it and with great effort rolled it up the hill and put it in place so that the great Temple would be complete. The stone that had been rejected had become the chief cornerstone. Jesus, who had been rejected now reigns at the right hand of the Father. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) Black ingratitude and cold indifference: Andrew Carnegie, a multimillionaire, left one million dollars to one of his relatives, who in return cursed Carnegie bitterly because he had left $365 million to public charities and had cut the relatives off with one million each. Samuel Leibowitz, criminal lawyer and judge, saved 78 men from the electric chair. Not one of them ever bothered to thank him. Many years ago, as the story is told, a devout king was disturbed by the ingratitude of his royal court. He prepared a large banquet for them. When the king and his royal guests were seated, a beggar shuffled into the hall, sat down at the king’s table, and gorged himself with food. Without saying a word, the beggar then left the room. The guests were furious and asked permission to seize the tramp and tear him limb from limb for his ingratitude. The king replied, “That beggar has done only once to an earthly king what each of you does three times each day to God. You sit there at the table and eat until you are satisfied. Then you walk away without recognizing God or expressing one word of thanks to Him.” The parable in today’s Gospel is about the gross ingratitude of God’s chosen people who persecuted and killed all the prophets sent to them by God to correct them and finally crucified their long-awaited Messiah. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) The stone the builders rejected became the cornerstone: South Africa is a country blessed by God in a great many ways. But the country which should have been a haven for all the peoples of Southern Africa became instead a heaven for a privileged white minority. Many people tried in vain to change South Africa’s apartheid system. Finally, Nelson Mandela appeared on the scene. He too tried to bring about reforms. But like reformers before him, he was rejected. Worse, he was hounded by the government, and ended up spending twenty-seven years in prison. However, he not only survived prison, but came out of it with the respect of his enemies and of the entire world. Furthermore, he came out without bitterness. He immediately sought reconciliation with the leaders of the regime that kept him, in prison. But even greater things were to follow. The man once rejected was to become the President of a new multi-racial South Africa. The stone which the builders rejected became the cornerstone of a new and better building. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) “Send me one line back.” The former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, had proposed marriage to Muriel Wilson, the daughter of a wealthy shipping tycoon. Soon after Wilson rejected him, Churchill sent a handwritten letter asking to see her again. “Don’t slam the door,” Churchill, then 30, begged Wilson, a year younger. “I can wait; perhaps I shall improve with waiting,” he wrote. “Why shouldn’t you care about me someday?” Pleading in a postscript, Churchill added, “Send me one line back.” Later he wrote her again. “Of course, you do not love me a scrap,” he wrote. At the same time, he insisted on the existence of “a key if I could only find it, if you would only let me look for it which would unlock both our hearts.” (Cox News Service)) The man who would one day provide a strong voice for the aspirations of the British people was once rejected just as many of us may have been rejected. Few things hurt as much as rejection. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us a story of his painful rejection by the Chosen People. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5) Rejection – what a terrible, terrible word! Elizabeth Barrett married the poet Robert Browning against her parents’ wishes. In fact, they objected so strenuously to her marriage that they disowned her. As everyone knows, her marriage was a beautiful, happy relationship for both Elizabeth and Robert. In spite of the hurt of being rejected by her family, however, Elizabeth Barrett Browning continued to write regularly to them. In each letter, she told her father and mother how much she continued to love them. She received no response. Then, after total silence for ten years from her parents, a large package arrived. Elizabeth Barrett Browning eagerly opened it. The box contained all of the letters that she had written them since her marriage to Robert. Not one had been opened. (Dr. William P. Barker, Tarbell’s Teacher’s Guide (Elgin, Illinois: David C. Cook, 1994).) Parents can be vindictive at times as can children. And the pain that can result is devastating. Rejected – is there a more painful word? In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us a story of his painful rejection by the Chosen People. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
6) “It’s the only thing!” When Vince Lombardi was hired as head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 1958, the team was in dismal shape. A single win in season play the year before had socked the club solidly into the basement of the NFL, and sportscasters everywhere used it as the butt of loser jokes. But Lombardi picked and pulled and prodded and trained and discipled the players into become a winning team. They were NFL champions in three consecutive seasons and took the game honors for the first two Super Bowls. Lombardi was a drill sergeant and a strategist, finding and developing the best in each of his players individually and then crafting a team community that could visualize the prize. “Winning isn’t everything,” he was often quoted as saying, “It’s the only thing!” His Packers proved him true, time and again. Where’s the Team? This is the problem Jesus pointedly identifies in today’s parable. God is the greatest coach, but the team is unwilling to follow Him. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) “Do you mean suicide?” There was a story in the newspapers sometime back about an 11-year-old boy in Los Angeles who hanged himself with a bathrobe belt because his girlfriend broke up with him in an E-Mail message. The boy left no suicide note but told the 12-year-old girl in an E-Mail that she “wasn’t going to hear from him anymore.” She sent back a message asking, “Do you mean suicide?” but he did not respond. The boy’s father found his son hanging from a shower frame. The children had met at a summer camp about a month before. (The Associated Press). Eleven years old. You and I would dismiss it as puppy love, but still there is pain. Actually, rejection is particularly hard on us when we are young. This is when we are still forming opinions about our own self-worth. Are we acceptable, lovable, worthy of our place in the sun? In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us a parable of rejection by the Chosen people of God. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) “Yes, Honey. That’s the way life goes sometimes.” There was a heart-breaking story in the Girl Scouts magazine, American Girl, several years ago. Listen to these words from a young woman: “When I was ten, my parents got a divorce. Naturally, my father told me about it, because he was my favorite. ‘Honey, I know it’s been kind of bad for you these past few days, and I don’t want to make it worse. But there’s something I have to tell you. Honey, your mother and I got a divorce . . . I know you don’t want this, but it has to be done. Your mother and I just don’t get along like we used to. I’m already packed, and my plane is leaving in half an hour.’ ‘But, Daddy, why do you have to leave?’ ‘Well, honey, your mother and I can’t live together anymore.’ ‘I know that, but I mean why do you have to leave town?’ ‘Oh. Well, I’ve got someone waiting for me in New Jersey.’ ‘But, Daddy, will I ever see you again?’ ‘Sure, you will, honey. We’ll work something out.’ ‘But what? I mean, you’ll be living in New Jersey, and I’ll be living here in Washington.’ ‘Maybe your mother will agree to you spending two weeks in the summer and two weeks in the winter with me.’ ‘Why not more often?’ ‘I don’t think she’ll agree to two weeks in the summer and two in the winter, much less more.’ ‘Well, it can’t hurt to try.’ ‘I know, honey, but we’ll have to work it out later. My plane leaves in twenty minutes and I’ve got to get to the airport. Now I’m going to get my luggage, and I want you to go to your room, so you don’t have to watch me. And no long goodbyes either.’ ‘Okay, Daddy. Goodbye. Don’t forget to write.’ ‘I won’t. Goodbye. Now go to your room.’ ‘Okay. ‘Daddy, I don’t want you to go!’ ‘I know, honey. But I have to.’ ‘Why?’ ‘You wouldn’t understand, honey.’ ‘Yes, I would.’ ‘No, you wouldn’t.’ ‘Oh well, Goodbye.’ ‘Goodbye. Now go to your room. Hurry up.’ ‘Okay. Well I guess that’s the way life goes sometimes.’ ‘Yes, honey. That’s the way life goes sometimes.'” Would it surprise you to know that after that young woman’s father walked out the door, she never heard from him again? [James C. Dobson, Straight Talk to Men and Their Wives (Waco: Word Books, 1980), pp. 44-45. Cited in Patrick M. Morley, The Rest of Your Life (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, Inc, 1992).] It is a terrible thing to feel rejected. Jesus tells such a painful story how their long-awaited Messiah was rejected by God’s Chosen people. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) “…that God loved me totally, unconditionally, and that he had a purpose for my life.” One of the most respected and best-liked persons in Hollywood is Kathie Lee Gifford. There was an article about her in USA Today in 1999. Like everyone, Kathie Lee has had her share of heartaches–particularly in her marriage, as the tabloids have pointed out to us repeatedly over the last few years. Kathie Lee was recognized recently as Mother of the Year at a charity luncheon. The Gifford’s children, Cody, 9, and Cassidy, 5, got a day off from private school to support Mom. They took to the podium, introduced by ABC’s Claudia Cohen. “I get an award for this?” asked Kathie Lee, standing with the kids after her introduction by New York first lady, Libby Pataki. “I am so blessed!” Then Kathie Lee thanked her parents, who were present. And here is what Kathie Lee Gifford said about her parents. It explains why Kathie Lee’s life has been such a success: They “taught me,” she said, “that God loved me totally, unconditionally, and that He had a purpose for my life.” (USA Today, March 2, 1999). No wonder Kathie Lee was successful, not only in her career, but as a mother. She knew she was loved. They “taught me,” she said, “that God loved me totally, unconditionally, and that he had a purpose for my life.” One who knows the unconditional love of God in one’s heart will allow the world to make them feel one rejected for long. When we have the love of God in our hearts, we carry a sense of security that the world cannot take away. Today’s Gospel tells us how God continues to love us in spite of our history of rejecting him. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) “You’re sitting in my chair.” A story was making the rounds during the American presidential campaign a few years ago. An asteroid hits the speaker’s platform at a Seattle conference center, and Al Gore, George W. Bush and Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and one of the richest men on earth, all arrive in Heaven at the same time. They are greeted by the Almighty, Who is sitting on His golden throne. First, the Lord speaks to Gore, asking what he believes in. “I believe in the Internet and a clean environment,” Gore replies. “Very good,” the Almighty says. “Come sit near me. “Then he asks George W. Bush the same question. “I believe in cutting taxes and taking good care of the military,” Bush replies. “Excellent,” says the Almighty. “Come sit near me. “Then God asks Bill Gates what he believes. “I believe,” Gates replies, “you’re sitting in my chair.” There are times when all of us try to put ourselves in God’s seat. There are times when all of us act as if the world is our fiefdom and we are supreme over all we survey. We forget that everything we have is on loan to us from God. We are temporary tenants. We don’t own anything, even though we sometimes act as if we own it all. Everything ultimately belongs to God. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) Jesus Calls Us to Good Stewardship. William White once told of visiting his 98-year-old mother-in-law in a nursing home. He remembers her quietly saying, “Think of the lilies and how they grow.” Long ago this frail, blind woman made the discovery that all of life is a blessing from God. She spent much of her time repeating Scripture verses that she had learned throughout her life. The Scriptures gave her both strength and comfort during many lonely hours. She was an active woman right up until she entered the nursing home, walking a mile a day, though her eyesight was gradually worsening. She loved people and was always helping them. Even in the nursing home she used a walker to spread her joyful faith. “Facing each day is not easy for her,” White reflected, “but she keeps her spirits up.” How? She felt that even at ninety-eight she had a mission. There in the nursing home she was able to touch the lives of other residents as well as some employees. In fact, some former employees who changed jobs still returned to the nursing home to spend time with this remarkable woman. William White was inspired when his mother-in-law told him how thankful she was to have memorized so many Scriptures before she lost her eyesight. Those Scriptures filled her heart with the Lord. (3) This dear 98-year-old lady did not have much left in this world, but she had the only thing we ever really own, her Faith in God. Everything else that we have is on loan. Someday it will be passed on to someone else. Don’t you see? No matter how rich we are, if we are not rich toward God, we don’t have anything! The vineyard belongs to Him. Happiness is found in recognizing our place as His tenants His stewards. But there is one thing more to be said. Jesus Calls Us to Good Stewardship. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) “I dare you to do it again.” Once at a Church meeting a wealthy member of the church rose to tell the rest of those present about his Christian Faith. “I’m a millionaire,” he said, “and I attribute my wealth to the blessings of God in my life.” He went on to recall the turning point in his relationship with God. As a young man, he had just earned his first dollar, and he went to a Church meeting that night. The speaker at that meeting was a missionary who told about his work in the mission field. Before the offering plate was passed around, the preacher told everyone that everything that was collected that night would be given to this missionary to help fund his work on behalf of the Church. The wealthy man wanted to give to support mission work, but he knew he couldn’t make change from the offering plate. He knew he either had to give all he had or nothing at all. At that moment, he decided to give all that he had to God. Looking back, he said he knew that God had blessed that decision and had made him wealthy. When he finished, there was silence in the room. As he returned to the pew and sat down, an elderly lady seated behind him leaned forward and said, “I dare you to do it again!” — When we start out, it’s easy to remember that the gifts and opportunities that come our way are from God. But something happens along the way. We forget the Owner. We come to think of the vineyard and everything it produces as something we own. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) “I knew I wasn’t a Christian.” Sociologist/Baptist preacher Tony Campolo says he was once like that. He uses the word Bible-thumper to describe himself as a youth — legalistic, self-righteous, always trying to convert others to his personal brand of religion — until one day he was shocked to discover that he didn’t know God at all. Super-religious, but he didn’t know God! Can that happen? It happens all the time. In fact, if you meet somebody who is both super-religious and smugly self-righteous, he/she is probably using religion to hide from God. Here’s how Tony Campolo discovered it was true of him. Tony was in high school. There was a kid named Roger in his school. Roger was gay, and everybody made fun of him. They ridiculed him. They made his life hell. You know how cruel kids in school can be. They mocked Roger. When he would go into the shower after gym, they would wait until he came out and then they would whip their towels at him and sting him. One day, when Tony was absent, a group of five guys pushed Roger into the corner of the shower and urinated all over him. That night Roger went to the attic in the middle of the night and hanged himself. And Tony Campolo, still suffering over this incident, writes, “I knew I wasn’t a Christian because if I had been a Christian, I would have stood up for my friend Roger. Even if they ridiculed me for doing it, I would have been his friend. I knew [then] that I didn’t know Jesus.” (http://www.csec.org/csec/sermon/campolo_4104.htm.) (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
14) Unconditional Love: In 1978 a man travelled to Cincinnati to attend the funeral of Max Ellerbusch. Max had been like a father to this man for twenty years. Nothing unusual, except that as a 15-year-old this man had taken his mother’s car and struck and killed Max’s 5-year-old son. This was a week before Christmas in 1958. Soon after the accident, a surprised court heard Max ask 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 a wild teenager who had just killed my 5-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 boy.” But if Max Ellerbusch was a little crazy, so is God. The parable in today’s Gospel describes God as a Landowner Who prepared a beautiful vineyard and gave it to His people to tend. However, His people wanted not just their share of the harvest, but the whole thing. They even abused and killed the prophets God sent to help them. Finally, in a desperate attempt to save His vineyard and His people, God sent His own Son, hoping they would respect and honour Him. Nonetheless, they abused and killed Him too in an effort to seize His inheritance. “ — What a silly story,” we might say. “No landowner in his right mind would risk sending his own son among rebels who had already murdered his messengers. How crazy can you get? Who can believe in a God so dumb?” But that is precisely the point of the parable. Where we would cry for vengeance on the tenants, God chose an alternative – the alternative of unconditional love. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) What We Owe Others: An American soldier, wounded on a battlefield in the Far East, owes his life to a Japanese scientist, Kitasato, who isolated the bacillus for tetanus. A Russian soldier saved by a blood transfusion is indebted to Landsteiner, an Austrian. A German is shielded from typhoid fever with the help of a Russian, Metchinikoff. A Dutch marine in the East Indies is protected from malaria because of the experiments of an Italian, Grassi; while a British aviator in North Africa escapes death from surgical infection because of a Frenchman, Pasteur, and a German, Koch who elaborated new techniques. In peace as in war, we are beneficiaries of knowledge contributed by every nation of the world. Our children are guarded from diphtheria by what a Japanese and a German did; they are protected from small pox by the work of an Englishman; they are saved from rabies because of a Frenchman; they are cured from pellagra through the research of an Austrian. From birth to death we are surrounded by invisible hosts–the spirit of people who never thought in terms of flags or boundary lines, and who never served a lesser loyalty than the welfare of mankind. God has done and is doing so much for us through his people. Are we grateful or take it all for granted? (Raymond R. Fosdick in ‘1000 Inspiring Stories’ quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) Film: The Killing Fields: In 1973, Dith Pran, a well-educated interpreter, helps U.S. journalist Sidney Schanberg to get into Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge is advancing on the capital and Pran’s family is evacuated while Pran stays with Schanberg. While the people rejoice and welcome the Khmer Rouge, Schanberg and other journalists are interned. They watch as the Khmer Rouge carries out executions. Pran argues for the journalist’s release. They take refuge in the French Embassy and are then expelled from the country. Schanberg tries to get Pran out as well but the Khmer Rouge send him to a re-education labour camp. Back in New York, Schanberg wins awards, but his associates criticize him for not finding a way to get his friend out of Cambodia. Schanberg commences efforts through the agency of the U.S. government and the Red Cross. Finally, Pran escapes and endures a long trek through the killings fields and is reunited with Schanberg in Thailand. – In terms of justice, this part of Matthew’s Gospel can be applied to contemporary Killing Fields such as those in Kosovo or of East Timor in the late 1990s. Prosperous lands were invaded and their owners and heirs were tortured and killed by those who wanted the inheritance for themselves. The Pol Pot regime, portrayed in the Killing Fields, took over Cambodia and destroyed all its servants and heirs in a massive genocide. Ultimately, the rightful citizens and owners of the land obtained the opportunity of self-rule and were able to build up again. — The savage behaviour that turned Cambodia into killing fields is like today’s Gospel parable about evil tenants who refuse to give the owner his due. Those they murder, the servants and the owner’s son, are like the innocent victims of the despotic regime of the Khmer Rouge. The unjust persecutors were ousted and condemned. Like Jesus and the kingdom, ultimately, the survivors became the cornerstones of a new society. (Peter Malone in ‘Lights Camera…. Faith’; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) “…and now you know the rest of the story!” Paul Harvey, the noted radio personality is probably best known for his segments entitled, “The Rest of the Story.” This long-running staple of talk radio usually begins with some well-known person or event and then continues to reveal additional, lesser known but very poignant information. At the conclusion of his feature, Harvey’s pleasant voice intones the familiar phrase: “…and now you know the rest of the story!” When the Matthean Jesus in today’s Gospel began the familiar story about a vineyard owner, who planted vines, hedged them in, dug a vat and erected a tower, his listeners, no doubt, recognized the centuries old familiar ballad of Isaiah (first reading). But then, in a style not unlike Paul Harvey’s, the parable went on to tell the rest of the story. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
18) The movie, Life of Pi (Trailer: https://youtu.be/mZEZ35Fhvuc?list=PLwxuHMFXnXZ1Sc0XHCLVTbA8mzCnwl9AL) : Life of Pi is a 2012 American survival drama film based on Yann Martel’s 2001 novel of the same name. Some of you might have seen this movie. The storyline revolves around an Indian man named “Pi” Patel, telling a novelist about his life story, and how at 16 he survives a shipwreck in which his family dies, and is adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. The others who came on his boat, an injured zebra and an orangutan, were killed by the hyena, which was later killed by the Tiger. When Pi ends the story, he offers another version of his survival story that simply replaces the animals with human characters. An injured person-zebra, his mother-orangutan, a cannibalistic cook-hyena, and himself-the tiger. Despite early reluctance, the listeners in the story chose to go with the Animal version rather than the brutal human version, which seems to be the real one, but we would never know. However, allegorizing is sometimes needed in life, in our story telling, especially to explain life’s reality. One such story that has two layers is the one that we read today, the parable of the wicked tenants. It is heavily allegorized by the Evangelists themselves and the history of interpretation. (Rev. Paul Lawrence). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
19) “…Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.” (Philippians, 4:6. Today’s second reading). “He was one of Columbia University’s history superstars,” a writer said recently of the late Professor Carlton J. H. Hayes (1882-1964). As an historian, Carlton Hayes was a lifetime seeker of truth. This quest not only brought him into the Catholic Church; it also brought him into genial but firm controversy with those of divergent opinions, even his fellow-Catholics. His special field of study was the current growth and dangers of excessive nationalism throughout the world. Fully acquainted with the threat of modern totalitarianism, he warned of the evils it could produce if not countered. Yet he never allowed himself to worry unduly about tomorrow. “If we are occupied with thoughts immortal or divine … or, for the matter of that, in doing anything that we feel is worth doing, we have neither time nor inclination to brood over our personal future.” Professor Hayes gave his students at Columbia the same sort of calm advice in the last lecture he delivered before his retirement in 1950. “The world,” he said, “is pretty badly off. But I don’t want you to lose any sleep over it.” Pope Pius XI had said much the same thing two decades before: “The future is in God’s hands, and therefore in good hands.” “…Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.” (Philippians, 4:6. Today’s second reading). -Father Robert F. McNamara. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
20) “THE STONE THAT THE BUILDERS REJECTED HAS BECOME THE CORNERSTONE!”
George Campbell Morgan, a renowned English preacher and a Bible scholar, was one of 150 young men who sought entrance to the Wesleyan ministry in 1888. He easily passed the doctrinal examinations, but then had to face the trial sermon. In a cavernous auditorium that could seat more than 1,000 sat three ministers and 75 others who came to listen. When Morgan stepped into the pulpit, the vast room and the searching, critical eyes caught him up short. Two weeks later Morgan’s name appeared among the l05 REJECTED for the ministry that year. He wired to his father the one word, ‘Rejected,’ and sat down to write in his diary: ‘Very dark everything seems. Still, He knoweth best.‘ Quickly came the reply from his dad: ‘Rejected on earth. Accepted in heaven.’ In later years, Morgan said: “God said to me, in the weeks of loneliness and darkness that followed, ‘I want you to cease making plans for yourself and let Me plan your life.’” Rejection is rarely permanent, as Morgan went on to prove. Even in this life, circumstances change, and ultimately, there is no rejection of those accepted by Christ. (Fr. Lakra). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
21) If Max was a little bit crazy, so is God. 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, as described by Jesus in today’s parable. (Fr. Bennett). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
22) Paid in full: The following story gives insight into the drama of the Lord of the vineyard and his unrequited benevolence (cf. M. Adams, “No Charge” in A 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul, ed. Jack Canfield, et. al., Deerfield: Health Communications, Inc., 1996, p. 100-101). Our little boy came up to his mother in the kitchen one evening while she was fixing supper, and he handed her a piece of paper that he had been writing on. After his mother dried her hands on an apron, she read it, and this is what it said:
For cutting the grass=$5.00
For cleaning up my room this week=$1.00
For going to the store for you=0.50
Baby-sitting my kid brother while you went shopping=0.25
Taking out the garbage =$1.00
For getting a good report card=$5.00
For cleaning up and raking the yard =$2.00
Total owed =$14.75
Well, I’ll tell you, his mother looked at him standing there expectantly, and boy, could I see the memories flashing through her mind. So she picked up the pen, turned over the paper he’d written on, and this is what she wrote:
“For the nine months, I carried you as you grew inside me, No charge. For all the nights that I’ve sat up with you, doctored, and prayed for you, No Charge. For all the trying times and all the tears that you’ve caused through the years, there’s No Charge. For all the nights that were filled with dread, and for the worries I knew were ahead, No Charge. For the toys, food, clothes, and even wiping your nose, there’s No Charge, Son. And when you add it all up, the full cost of real love is No Charge.”
Well, friends, when our son finished reading what his mother had written, there were great big old tears in his eyes, and he looked straight up at his mother and said, “Mom, I sure do love you.” And then he took the pen and in great big letters he wrote: “PAID IN FULL.” (Lectio Divina).
23) How unfortunate it is to waste the graces and opportunities showered upon us by God! The following story of the tragic end of Clark gives us an inkling of how unfortunate it is to waste the graces and opportunities showered upon us by God (cf. Mike McGarvin, Papa Mike, Fresno, 2003, p. 102-105). Life at Poverello House is always interesting. You never knew who might be coming through the door. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of homeless people we’ve met had been born into poverty; often the addicts and alcoholics were products of homes in which their parents abused booze and drugs. Sometimes, though, we’d run across someone who had fallen from great heights. Clark showed up somewhere around 1987 or 1988. Although dishevelled like a typical homeless person, he possessed a sort of faded elegance. He piqued my curiosity; I didn’t need to strike up a conversation, however, because he buttonholed me and started talking. Once he started, he rarely stopped. Clark claimed that he came from an upper-class Arizona family, that he had hobnobbed with Barry Goldwater and other prominent people, and that he had been C.E.O. of a local hospital. Yeah, sure, I thought. I was shocked to find out it was all true. It got stranger. My wife brought out her birth certificate one day, and there was Clark’s signature. It turned out that he was one of the most successful leaders in the hospital’s history. On top of that, he had been appointed to a special health care commission by then-Governor Ronald Reagan. He had been a hero in the Pacific Theater of World War II, a well-loved commander of a PT boat. He had at one time been a dashing, handsome member of Fresno’s elite, written about in society’s columns.
What had happened? As time went on, I got to know his ex-wife and one of his sons. At its simplest level, Clark had a booze problem. When he hit the streets, he was drinking prodigious amounts of alcohol. On an average day, he’d have a fifth or more of hard liquor, as well as several bottles of beer and wine. His drinking had been going on for years, and I don’t know when it started getting out of control. What I do know is that his descent was gradual. After leaving as C.E.O. of the hospital, he had several lesser jobs in the health care industry, each one a step down from the last. He had many friends, often ex-employees, and they cushioned his fall for years. Finally, however, his life was so unmanageable that he hit the skids. (…).
Clark continued to live on the streets and drink. Amazingly, he kept going, even though he was now in his eighties and could barely walk because of edema in his ankles. He got around all over town with his shopping cart full of rotting food and junk. His looks and behavior got more bizarre as time went on. (…).
He gradually came less and less to Poverello. I got a call from his ex-wife one day; he was in the V.A. Hospital, and didn’t look good. I went up to visit him. It had been a while since I’d seen him, and he couldn’t talk because of all the tubes hooked up to him. It was the first conversation I had with him in which I was able to get a word in edgewise. I talked uninterrupted for a long time; I knew he’d be checking out soon, and I wanted to leave him with some words of comfort. I told him I’d pray for him. He could hear me, and he formed his eyes into a squint, but I’m not sure what he was trying to convey. The next day I got a call – Clark had died. He was a unique, talented man who had once had it all. He left behind broken family members who are still, to this day, trying to make sense of his life.(Lectio Divina). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
24) “Irish Blessing.” The following story, “Irish Blessing”, circulated through the Internet, gives us an idea of the things we must do and of the fruitfulness that our actions and attitude must produce in order that the peace of God may reign in the world. His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog. There mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death. The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman’s sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved. “I want to repay you”, said the nobleman. “You saved my son’s life. ”No, I can’t accept payment for what I did”, the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer. At that moment, the farmer’s own son came to the door of the family hovel. “Is that your son?” the nobleman asked. “Yes”, the farmer replied proudly. “I’ll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like the father, he’ll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of.” And that he did. Farmer Fleming’s son attended the best schools and, in time, graduated from St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin. Years afterward, the same nobleman’s son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time? Penicillin. The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill. His son’s name? Sir Winston Churchill. (Lectio Divina). (Fr. Tony’s comment: It is a false rumor: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/what-goes-around/ ). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/). L/20
Since most taxi drivers do not speak English, someone suggested that it might be a good idea to carry with him something bearing the name of the hotel at which he would be staying written in Japanese. That was exactly what he did. As soon as he arrived in Japan he picked up a box of matches bearing the name and address of his hotel. Then he went sight-seeing.
Afterwards he got into a taxi and did as the friend suggested, he took the box of matches out of his pocket to show the driver where he wanted to go. There were a few awkward moments before the driver understood. Finally his face lit up. Quickly they sped away. Half an hour later, the taxi came to a screeching halt. The driver turned and beamed at his passenger, pointing out the window. There was only one problem. They had stopped, not in front of a hotel, but a match factory!
Have you ever had an experience like that? Someone will say something and for whatever reason you do not understand. It's as if they were speaking a foreign language. You want to go back to the hotel and instead find yourself in front of a match factory.
There were times when Jesus tried to communicate profound truths to those around him and they acted as if he were from Mars...
Is Service Over?
With keen insight, Jesus portrays us sinners as God's tenants of his vineyard. We see what a great privilege it is to be a tenant of God, and have all this given to us. The vineyard was a great one. They had everything they needed - hedge, winepress, the tower - which would have made it comparatively easy for those tenants and could have made possible their doing a very good job. It's good to know that God not only gives us certain tasks to accomplish in our life-time, but he also provides for us the means to get them done. In what a generous vineyard our lives are set!
One particular year the weather did not cooperate and the vineyards did not produce an abundance of grapes. One of the wine makers decided that since things would be tight that year he would sell his wine elsewhere. He then filled his barrel with water and poured it into the town keg, thinking that one barrel of water in the gigantic keg would go unnoticed and not impact the outcome of the wine.
The wine in the keg aged for seven years. At the end of seven years the villagers all gathered around that particular keg to sell their wine to merchants who had come from all over the world. The entire community depended on the sale of their wine to provide for them until the next season. The villagers gathered around the giant keg and it was tapped. A pitcher was placed at the tap and out came nothing but pure water. It seemed that everyone in the village that year had the same idea and none had put in wine. Since everyone held back there was no wine to sell.
The villagers refused to share their wine with their neighbors and consequently no one ended up with anything. The parable of the vineyard is not unlike the villagers in Italy. The servants were to reap the fruits of the vineyard for the landowner but were denied that opportunity by the tenants. The tenants refused to share their grapes with others. They even went so far as to mistreat the servants and even kill the landowner's son.
Jesus uses the parable of the vineyard to describe the kingdom of God. It reminds us that we are here temporarily on earth and that we are God's guests. God wants us to be grateful for all that we have and to share what we have been given.
There was a legend that was well known in New Testament times that in the building of the temple of Solomon most of the stones were of the same size and shape. One stone arrived, however, that was different from the others. The builders took one look at it and said, "This will not do," and sent it rolling down into the valley of Kedron below. The years passed and the great temple was nearing completion, and the builders sent a message to the stonecutters to send the chief cornerstone that the structure might be complete. The cutters replied that they had sent the stone years before. Then someone remembered the stone that was different than all the rest that somehow did not seem to belong. They realized that they had thrown away the cornerstone. They hurried into the valley to retrieve it. Finally under vines and debris they recovered it and with great effort rolled it up the hill and put it in place so that the great temple would be complete. The stone that had been rejected had become the chief cornerstone. Jesus, who had been rejected now reigns at the right hand of the Father. From rejection to rejoicing.
Sometimes the agreement comes to be seen as unfair. Talk to the workers at Firestone or Titan Tire. Sometimes it simply becomes impossible to honor the terms of an agreement you've made. You want to, but you do not have the means - bankruptcy.
Or you may identify with the servants or with the son - you know, the go-betweens or intermediaries who always seem to get the main lumps trying to patch things up between two other people.
You may even identify with the tenants - feeling oppressed, taken advantage of; a sense that "We do all the work, why should he get all the benefits?"
Or you may identify with the others - the ones who come in after the storm and find themselves on trial because of the previous troublemakers. You know, you can't keep a dog in your apartment because the tenant before you let his dog rip up the carpet.
And God said, "No, Gabriel! No, not just yet. I know you are right, but I keep thinking if I just give them a little more time they'll quit acting like they own the place!"