The parish of Saint Andrew, a welcoming, joyful and renewing Catholic community, dedicates itself to serving all of God’s people with the love of Jesus Christ and His mission.
My Dear Brothers and Sisters,
For the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Apostolic conviction flows from genuine humility. It is probable that most who will read this column are accepting as a fact of life that they are dependent upon God for mercy. They are the poor in spirit who are content to live in the Kingdom of God as it is being revealed and are not deeply distressed when it seems that its revelation is different than their expectation. They are willing to let go [of the need to control] and let God [direct salvation]. However, this does not make them the doormats to the divine Kingdom as the world would have them believe. Having the conviction of an Apostle, that means as one who has responded to the Lord’s invitation to follow him, gives one a perspective that believers have. They have accepted the gift of the kingdom and find satisfaction in the production of its fruit.
This is brought home by the gospel reading for this week (Mt. 21: 33-43). It is a parable Jesus addresses to the priests and elders of the people about a vineyard owner who builds a perfect vineyard and then he leases it to tenants. Ideally, the tenants and the owner both benefit from the lease agreement: the owner receives a return on his investment and the tenant farmers return a portion of the harvest in exchange for the use of a vineyard they could not afford to build personally. Both parties rejoice in the shared blessing.
Trouble follows when the tenants of the vineyard begin to abuse it as if it is their own. They refuse to give the share that the vineyard owner is entitled to receive. In effect, the tenants steal the vineyard and its produce from the owner and kill his servants and even the son of the owner. By the time Jesus asks the priests and elders, “What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” they knew what the answer had to be. The wretched tenants would die wretchedly and other, more responsible tenants, would be offered the use of the vineyard. They would have been quick to answer because they also knew that Jesus had based his parable on the famous Old Testament work of Isaiah, the prophet (cf. Is. 5: 1-7).
The interpretation of this parable, however, is where the humility of hearers becomes operative. The priests and elders, even though they knew and gave the right answer regarding the disposition of vineyard, wanted to arrest Jesus. He was too threatening to them. Examining what the perceived threat was to the priests and elders shows why it can be said that apostolic conviction flows from humility.
The divorce between faith and religion as it was in these religious leaders made them vulnerable in Jesus’ presence. They were stung by his teaching that the vineyard belonged to God, and not to them. It was given to benefit all, not just to the fortunate few who seized control of it. Neither the energy needed to work the vineyard, nor the vineyard itself was recognized as a gift of God, proof of his divine love for them. They could not see themselves as tenants welcomed into the vineyard by the owner.
The agents of hostility in the passion narratives were the religious leaders of Judaism, not the mass of people. Claiming the vineyard as our own will most assuredly embitter us as it did those to whom this parable was addressed originally.