Having just heard the Gospel proclaimed, “What are our immediate reactions to it?” Many of us would probably react against the tenants and brand them as people who are so filled with greed, self-centeredness and injustice that they were willing even to kill the landowner’s son just for their selfish gains. Such reactions are not far from the truth as the “tenants” symbolise the people of Israel who constantly rejected the Kingdom of God that was offered to them by God, who is symbolised by the landowner.
In the light of ownership, I would like us toreflect on the truth thatall of us are like the tenants in that we have and possess are all blessings from God who is the real owner, and that we are mere tenants or stewards to what God has given us. By this I mean that all that we have, including our lives, our family, our career, our money, our talents and even our time are all gifts and blessings from God and thus, in a real sense they all belong to God.
We tend to think that we can do what we like with our life, family, career, money, talents and time. Not really because God is the owner. We are each “tenants of the vineyard of life” and we are each called to use all the blessings that God has given us as fully and as responsibly as we can. And when the time comes for us to die, we are to face God and give Him an account of how we have used all His blessings during our lifetime. This is because He is the rightful and true ownerof all that we have and possess in this world.
When we reflect on our lives; whether we are young or old, all of us have desires and dreams for ourselves and for our loved ones. We all want to live a happy and fulfilling life. Whether we are married, single or are priests and religious, we would each want to live a wholesome and fulfilling life.
There is a story of three trees on a mountain top who dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I want to be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!" The second little tree said, "I want to be travelling the mighty waters and be carrying powerful kings. I want to be the strongest ship in the world! When it came to the third little tree’s turn, he looked down at the valley below. And when he saw busy men and women working in the very hard in the town, he said, “I don't want to leave this mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me they will raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. So, I want to be the tallest tree in the world.
Years, passed. The rain came, the sun shone and the little trees grew tall. One day some wood cutters came along and cut all of them down. When the first tree was brought into a carpenter's shop, he was shocked to find that instead of being fashioned into a treasure box that is covered with gold and precious stones, he was coated with saw dust and made into a feed box to be filled with hay for hungry farm animals; how disgusting! He thought to himself; that’s not my goal in life! The second tree’s dreams too was shattered when he was made into a simple small fishing boat that was certainly too weak to carry kings and sail ocean. The third tree was even sadder when he was simply sawn up into beams and left aside in a lumberyard. "What happened?" The once tall tree wondered. "All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point others to God?!"
Many weeks and months passed and the three trees had given up hopes of fulfilling their dreams. But one night, the first tree was awakened by a man’s voice that whispered to his wife, "I am making a manger for him." The mother smiled and then gently placed her new born baby into it /as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful" she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world; the Son of God Himself.”
One evening a tired traveller and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. As the traveller fell asleep, exhausted from the day’s work, the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a fierce storm arose. The little tree was terrified as he was too weak to battle with the storm and carry the many people on board. The tired man then awoke. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, "Peace." The storm immediately ceased. The second tree was immediately filled with deep joy as he knew that he was carrying the King of all kings; the King of heaven and earth.
One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when he was yanked from the forgotten pile of wood in the lumberyard. He flinched as he was carried through an angry jeering crowd. He shuddered when angry soldiers brutally nailed a man's arms and legs on to him. He felt ugly and horrible at the harsh and cruel treatment. But three days later, on a Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth radiated with joy beneath him, the third tree knew that God's love had transformed everything. It had made the third tree into such a dignified Cross that every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of a God that offers us eternal life and happiness. That is infinitely better than being the tallest tree in the world.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, as tenants of the vineyard of God in today’s world, like the three trees, we all have our desires and dreams of wanting to live a happy and fulfilled life. However, like the three trees, we also often have to face the pains of discouragements and disappointments and even disillusionment along the way: our spouse may oppose our dreams, our family may let us down, our relatives and friends may desert us, our bosses may treat us unjustly, our Parish community may not give us the expected support and through all of these, we feel like giving up on life.
But, even as we may be feeling down, helpless and hopeless like the three trees, of failing to fulfil our desires and dreams of living a happy life, the Good News is that God, the owner of the vineyard, who has given us all the blessings that we need, will never give up on us because He is constantly thinking of something better for us. And, even as we sadden Him through our faults, failures and sinfulness, like the tenants, He will continue to be patient, compassionate and be hopeful for us. He will continue to send us more good people to urge us to change our hearts and be converted to living in God’s Love and Ways. And that is why in today’s Gospel, when the tenants seized, thrashed and killed each of the servants that were sent to them, God the landowner continued to send even more servants in the hope of persuading them to be converted; and as a last effort, God sent His Son to save us as He said, “they will respect my Son.”
God does not expect us to be perfect. He only wants us to try our very best with sincerity of our hearts, and to be responsible for all the blessings that God has given us in our lives and not take Him for granted, like the tenants. Mother Teresa says, “What we have are gifts from God, and what we become is our gift to God.”
And so, regardless of the disappointments and temporary trials of life . . . we are called to be awakened to the Truth that deep within hearts, you and I hold the greatest treasure in the world; the King of kings and the God who offers eternal happiness; this is infinitely better than all that we possess.
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
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