Are We Also Going To Disappoint God Who Appointed Us?!
Readings: 1st: Ish 5, 1-7; Ps 79, 9. 12-16. 19-20; 2nd: Phil 4, 6-9; Gos: Mtt 21, 33-43
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, of the Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today is the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time and the first in the month of October 2014. On this Sunday, the church enjoins us to rejoice for being highly favored because God chose us as his beloved vineyard, as well as appointed us to be in charge of his vineyard. To be able to carry out his task effectively, therefore, we need much prayer which draws the peace of God closer and closer to us. In light of this we are to put in our best in order not to disappoint (as our ancestors did) the God who appointed us.
Once, I went to a nearby fruit shop to buy some fruits. As I was walking through the shops examining the fruits in order to make my choice, one young man insisted that I buy from his shop because his articles were good. Actually when I saw his fruits I admired them because they looked really good. So, I bought some quantity of guava from him. Unfortunately on getting home, the first fruit I tried eating was already deteriorating and had maggots inside. I took, the second, third, fourth and in fact the results were all the same. So, out of disappointment I threw the remaining into the garbage can. The next time I went to the same market, the same man beckoned on me to buy from him but I ignored him because he disappointed me the other time. When we use the term disappointment in relation to persons or things, we simply mean that a persons’ action, or that the outcome of something falls below our expectation. What do we do at such times? We express feelings of disappointment in various ways. In like manner, God feels “disappointed” and even “frustrated when we perform badly.”
Our first reading popularly known as “the parable or song of the vineyard is an allegory. In this reading, God recounts his love and care for Judah. He chose her as the apple of his eyes (Zach 2, 8) and as his beloved garden, did everything possible to make her comfortable. Unfortunately, God was rewarded with sour grapes, instead of grapes of good quality: “He expected justice, but found bloodshed, integrity but only a cry of distress.” What a pity! How has it been with us? Most times some of us have rewarded our well beloved thus ungratefully for all his pains. We have given him hardness of heart, instead of repentance; unbelief, instead of faith; indifference, instead of love; idleness instead of holy industry and impurity instead of holiness. Our world today is marked and punctuated by violence, victimization, hunger, homelessness, greed, conspicuous consumption, corruption etcetera. We have cared more about selling things to our neighbors than we have cared for our neighbors. I think we can do better. We should do better and God expects us to do better. Unfortunately, and tragically, instead of justice, God sees violence; and instead of righteousness, God hears the cries of victims. So as His garden, are we also going to disappoint Him in spite of his goodness to us?
The Rotarian, guiding principle referred to as the four-way test which is an ethical guide for their personal and professional relationships always reminds me of Phil 4, 8 (things we must think about). The principles include: “Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendship? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?” Today, in his last letter to the Philippians Paul exalts us not to be worried because if we remain close to the Lord of the vineyard through prayers He will allow his peace to abide with us. In order words, through prayers we must always seek the peace of God. Finally, He draws our attention to the basic stuffs that God expects to find in us, his vineyard: “Everything that is true… noble…that we love and honour….” So, whatever that is honorable means that which is respectable, and we should think only about such things. Whatever that is right, is that which conforms to the perfect standard of God’s righteousness. Whatever that is pure is that which is free from defilement, whatever that is lovely is that which is pleasing in its motive and actions towards others. Whatever that is good is that which is laudable. Excellence and worthy of praise is that which is formally or officially approving. Unfortunately, we no longer ask “is it true?” but “does it work?” and “how will it make me feel?” Regrettably to say the least, perhaps this is the only reason many of us go to church, not to think about the truths of Scripture, but to get our weekly spiritual wage and to feel that God is still with us. Finally, as a condition for the peace of God to continue to be with us, Paul tells us to keep doing all that we have learnt from the good news of Jesus Christ. If we do, the Lord of the vineyard will continue to be happy with us because we did not disappoint him.
In the gospel of today like in the first reading, we find another allegory of the vineyard. In it, Jesus addressed the chief priests and the elders of the people in the temple. This time around the Pharisees and the Scribes were portrayed as the bad and wicked tenants who, instead of rendering a good account decided to overthrow the landlord. The question is, after throwing out these wicked tenants to whom would the vineyard be given or has been given? The good news for us this Sunday lies herein: “….and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him whenever he arrives.” When the Pharisees and their accomplices rejected the gospel it was taken to the gentiles. This reading therefore, richly conveys some important truths about God and the way he deals with his people. First, it tells us of God’s generosity and trust. Second, it tells us of His patience and justice. Of course this parable simply was to remind the Pharisees that they killed the prophets and will also kill the son of God Christ himself. However, the judgment pronounced on the original tenants must serve as a warning to us the new tenants, because: “To whom much is given much is expected.” Second is the fact that in whatever position we find ourselves now, we must be ready to render a positive and fruitful account to the Master and Lord of the vineyard. When we oppress the weak, the poor, our subordinates, and those we are supposed to take care of, when we fail to render justice to whom it is due, when we overturn the truth and prefer lie, and when we bring others pain and sorrow instead of joy, we disappoint God.
Finally, Jesus says: “The stone the builders rejected become the key stone”. In deed, as much as he speaks to the Pharisees of old so does he speak to us too. They rejected Christ the heir to the vineyard and even killed him, thinking that was the right thing to do to claim full ownership of the vineyard, but unfortunately what they thought was going to be to their advantage became their ruin. Accepting the Lordship of Christ as the heir to God’s vine yard in our lives is very important. Allowing him to take his rightful position in our lives which ultimately is God’s vineyard is the only way we can bear good fruits. That is, the good fruit God’s first vineyard could not bear. This is the only way we can be filled with what is true, noble, pure, worthy of praise and of course, virtuous; and it is the only way we can faithfully render a good account to the Lord. So, for the times we have disappointed God let us with the Psalmist today implore the Lord of the vineyard of our lives: “God of hosts, turn again, we implore, look down from heaven and see…God of host bring us back… and we shall not forsake you again!”
Peace be with you all!!