2nd Week of Lent, Friday, Mar 5
Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28 / Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
Jesus teaches the people; "Hear another Parable.:
This parable reveals three important points. First, it reveals God's patience. God gave the tenant farmers three chances, even in the face of violence. Second, it reveals Jesus' uniqueness. Jesus is not just another prophet, like the other prophets (slaves).
He represents something totally new. He is the owner's (God's) own son.
Third, it reveals our accountability. It shows that sooner or later we will be held accountable to God for our actions, just as the tenant farmers (religious leaders) were held accountable for their actions.
In what ways has God exercised great patience with us, just as he did with the tenant farmers? "Patience is power; with time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes silk." Chinese proverb
Joseph suffered because his brothers were jealous. Yet later he would save them from famine. Jesus was rejected and died for our sins. He became the keystone for a new kingdom, for the life of all. And we? We want happiness without pain, without paying the price for it, though sacrifice and happiness are close relatives. If the grain of wheat does not die… We know this, but it’s too uncomfortable to put into practice if we are not forced by circumstances . . .
Family feuds are not just something that we see only in movies and soap operas. It happens in real life. We read about it in the papers, we hear about it from friends, it may have even happened to us. One of the main causes of these family feuds is over money and property. Over money and property, children have brought parents to court and vice versa. Over money and property, sibling rivalry can become so ugly that blood relationships can become like dirty water.
It had happened from the earliest times in the story of Cain and Abel. It happened between Joseph and his brothers as we heard in the 1st reading. That coat with long sleeves was a symbol of favour and blessing. Over that coat, Joseph's brothers came up with evil thoughts like murder, and then mugging and then slavery. It was also over money and property that the tenants in the parable of today's gospel resorted to violence and murder.
It can be frightening to know, and even to realize, that money and material possession can have such a destructive grip over us to the extent that we can even lose our sense of integrity and morality.
Hence the Lenten practice of alms-giving has that purpose of helping us break free from this grip of being money-minded and being possessed by materialism. The Charities Week envelope is a means of helping us in this Lenten spiritual exercise. Let us see if we can give cheerfully. After all whatever we have is given to us from above, and we are only stewards, not owners.
1. For the Benefit of Others: The tenants in the parable used their talents for their own enjoyment, comfort, and entertainment, and they eventually lost everything. When Jesus created us, he gave us talents to use for a mission. Not only are we supposed to work to get ourselves to heaven, but the Lord also invites us to help bring others there as well. The talents and abilities we have are meant to be used for this task—not for our own profit. When we accomplish the Lord’s work, we are rewarded as people “that produce fruit.”
2. Am I Profitable for God?: The tenants could have used part of the fruits of their labor to take care of their personal needs (and they would have received even more than they needed), but these tenants wanted it all. In the same way, God allows us to use our talents to take care of our own needs as well as to enjoy life—after all, God ordered us not to work every single day, but to set aside the seventh day for worship, rest, and recreation. However, like the tenants in the parable, we are also expected to make a profit for him. Do we use our talent–our time, energy, intelligence, creativity–for his profit? This is the way we love the Lord with our “whole heart and with all my soul and with all my mind and with all my strength” (cf. Mark 12:30).
3. Final Reckoning: Everything in the vineyard belonged to the landowner. The property was his. He planted the vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower. All the tools belonged to him as well. The tenants provided only the labor. Our life is similar. We provide only the labor. None of the tools–our talents–belong to us. They come from God. He has the right to expect us to use them, not only for our own needs, but for his profit as well—for the good and salvation of those around us. He sends us people to remind us of this. Do we ignore them? Do we treat them the way the tenants treated the landowner’s servants?
Conversing with Christ: Lord, so often I forget about you and end up focused on my own goals and desires. Yet you put me here to cooperate with you in your saving mission. You gave me the tools I need to fulfill this mission. Help me to remember this truth throughout my day, to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks me for a reason for my hope” (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).
God, we do not want to die; we want to live. We want to be happy but without paying the price. We belong to our times, when sacrifice and suffering are out of fashion. God, make life worth the pain to be lived. Give us back the age-old realization that life means to be born again and again in pain, that it may become again a journey of hope to you, together with Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.