For the Last several Sundays, the Lord in Matthew’s Gospel has stressed a central point: How our God goes out of His way and gives us every chance to accept Him and to receive His blessing, His joy and His life and be engaged in the loving work of His Kingdom.
You will remember, the vineyard owner who goes out several times during the day searching for people who want work and have been ignored by employers. He is proactive and inconveniences himself to find workers, especially those who will be latecomers. The owner pays the same wage to the latecomers who do only one hour’s work as he does those who have been there all day. How pro-active is our God! The Good Shepherd constantly searching and eager to reward.
Then, last week, we had the father and his two sons. How pleased the father must have been to see his child change his mind and help him working in the vineyard. The teaching for us: that God is patient. He loves us through and through and allows us our doubts, delays and preoccupation. Thanks be to God, the Holy Spirit comes upon us and, like the Prodigal Son, we come eventually come to our senses, change our minds/lives, appeal to His loving inclusive healing Divine Mercy, and place ourselves in God’s life giving arms. Like the thief on the cross, God welcomes us even at the last moment and, overlooking the delay, He will be pleased and will give us life.
Today we have the vineyard again. The vineyard can be Israel, God’s people, the Kingdom of God and the environment of our daily lives. We are the tenants. The owner is of course, God our Father. Let us look at God’s investment and what lengths He goes to.
The Master builds His vineyard. God created the world. God did not create the world just for the sake of it. He created it as the environment for His crowning act of creation: us. We are not just another species, and if we are gone the world is not fine without us. Look around you, it was created to give us a place to be. Are we humbled by this realisation or do we take it all for granted? Respect for the environment will come from the realisation we do not own the world, it belongs to God and we, as stewards, will be accountable as to how we treat His creation.
The Master prepares the soil. Connemara, Co. Galway, Western Ireland is very beautiful and often wet (that’s why the marble is green). It has a proliferation of stone walls. I remarked to my friend once how pretty these walls were. He being the practical-farming sort, pointed out we were in one of the stoniest places God created, and each stone had to be laboriously heaved from the earth to try and clear the ground for crops/animals. What to do with all the stones? Hence the many stone walls – Pretty? Yes. Hard work- you bet. It is back breaking labour to reclaim stone cluttered soil. Yet the Master doesn’t leave it to the tenants, he does it himself. So too, God facilitates our lives by working hard on our behalf. As Jesus once taught: look at the flowers of the field and birds of the air, God dresses them for our admiration. He provides for us at every turn. Every day we wake, He has given the day to us and the blessings we enjoy.
The Master puts the best vines in place. God always offers us the best. You cannot make quality wine from low quality vines. When you start with such good vines, it’s hard to fail to produce good quality wine. God’s grace and love are the best. There is nothing greater and God gives in abundance. He wants us to succeed and gives us the best possible start.
The Master builds a wine press. Again, this is a labour saving and time saving device. This increases productivity. God gives us His Holy Spirit, the sacraments, His Sacred Word in the Scriptures, the saints in Heaven and the love and support of each other. The big issue: do we avail of these blessings to be more productive in our love of God and our neighbour?
The Master has an eye for security for his vineyard and it’s tenants. He builds a tower. This allows them to be wary. God reminds us to stay awake, be on guard, be alert and aware. We will hear these words again in Advent. Further, He builds a fence. This will keep out robbers and wild animals. God is with us through it all and He protects us from harm. We have our Guardian Angel watching over us. We need not be afraid as we keep our eyes on the vines of our daily tasks, busy about the Master’s business. The fence also has another meaning for us. It marks the boundary of Truth. Adam and Eve crossed this boundary and it cost us Paradise. God’s Truth guides and inspires us how to live and how to fruitfully serve in the Kingdom of Heaven. We must not wander outside the Truth but keep ourselves within it and be at our best and be a good example to others.
Finally, the Master goes away. I remember one of the managers I worked under. He had the obsessive habit of constantly looking over our shoulder at what we were doing. I suppose he thought he was quality control or even a source of encouragement. In fact, he had the opposite effect. He succeeded in undermining the work of competent staff who often felt they could not be trusted to do a task well in the manager’s eyes. The Lord is not into control or micromanagement. Jesus often sent out His disciples ahead of Him and expected them to be His Good News guided by His teaching. He treated them responsibly and expected them to be aware of their pastoral duties and the trust He placed in them and for them to act accordingly. In short, He expected them to get on with it. Christ has died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again.
This Gospel reminds me and you, life is short and each day, depending on our choices, we have the chance to store up treasure in Heaven or not. We can be fruitful or fruitless in our little patch of the Lord’s vineyard. God has gone to great lengths for each and every one of us. A few days after Jesus taught this parable He was dead on the cross; the ultimate proof of what God’s love is prepared to do for us. The question is: what are we prepared to do for Him? I suggest, our productivity will be proportionate to our sense of gratitude. Someone once said to me: “Don’t do anything in the day that Christ can’t share in”. I’ve found that this makes for a productive day that also stays within the boundary of God’s life giving Truth.
Father Gerard X