Homilies

27th Sunday in Ordinary Times
Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 4:6-9; Gospel of Matthew 21:33-43
Are We Sharing our Blessings . . .?

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of Good Shepherd, on 8th October 2017

Today’s story of the Parable of the Tenant and the Landlord of the Vineyard is basically a story of the “ingratitude” of the tenants for the blessings that they received from the Landlord.  The Parable is directed at the chief priests and the elders who were Pharisees, who eventually rejected the Good News of Salvation and killed and crucified the Son of God.  This Parable is also meant to challenge each and every one of us here.  What are these challenges? 

Before we reflect on this, let us also first note that one of the fundamental fault and sin of the tenants in the Gospel Parable is that the tenants had forgotten or had chosen not to accept the truth that the vineyard did not belong to them, but instead, belonged to the landlord.  The landlord had originally merely leased the land to them.  As tenants, they were merely to till the land and at harvest time, share the produce with the landlord.  However, instead of doing that, the tenants were over taken by greed of the wealth and refused to pay and share the produce with the landlord.  They even went so far as to kill the landlord’s son. 
 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, like the tenants, you and I too have received abundant blessings from God throughout our lives, and continue to do so every day.  The basic questions we are called to face today are, “What have we done . . . What are we doing . . . and What will we do . . . with the abundant blessings that God has given, is giving and will continue to give us in our lives?  Will we fall into the same trap of ingratitude like the “tenants of the Parable?”  Or will we live a mindful life that is conscious of the reality that like the “tenants” you and I are merely stewardsof the abundant blessings that God has given us? 

In other words, we do not own the blessings and graces that God has given us.  Let us note that even the life that we have, is a pure gift to us from God; we do not even own the life we have.  As such, we are each called to be good stewards of the gift of life that God has given us; we are given the responsibilities of taking care of our lives and living it in accordance to God’s Love and Ways. 

Because our life belongs to God, who is the Giver of Life, it is a crime even to attempt to commit suicide.  As such, when the police arrives at a suicide scene, they would handcuff even the dead person, to indicate that suicide is deemed to be a crime.  Likewise for the tenants; the land that they have leased from the landlord does not belong to them, but to the landlord.  And as mentioned, the fundamental fault and sin of the tenants is to have forgotten or to have chosen not to accept the truth that the vineyard does not belong to them,but instead, belonged to the landlord. 

There is a story narrated by Winston Churchill which I would like to adapt and use for my homily.  A little boy was playing on a pier.  All of a sudden he fell off the pier into the water. He did not know how to swim and was in serious danger of drowning. A very kind-hearted young soldier saw this, and he immediately plunged into the water to save the boy.  He eventually brought the boy back up to the pier safely.  

However, the boy’s parents were nowhere to be found.  Eventually, in asking around, he managed to ask some people who knew where the boy lived.  He then sent the boy home safely.  For the very kind hearted soldier, he was extremely happy that he was able to save the boy’s life, and did not expect any reward for his good deed. 

A few days later, the boy's parents came to look for the soldier at the pier.  Those who were at the scene of the boy’s drowning helped the boy’s parent to locate the young soldier, as they were sure that the parents would want to thank him personally, and even perhaps, give him a reward.  Finally they spotted the soldier walking at pier.  The people were delighted for the parents and brought them to meet the soldier. 

Upon meeting the boy’s parents, the soldier immediately remarked, “Oh you are James’ parents?  I am so happy that your little boy is save and sound . . . you do not need to thank me; just to know that I have saved your son has brought me great happiness.  The father and mother said, "No! We have not come here to give you anything.  We have come to ask you for our son's hat. Where is it?"

To this the people around who had expected James’ parents to give the soldier a reward were totally shocked.  The young soldier too was shocked and dumbfounded.  He said, "I saved your son’s life and all you are concerned about is his hat that he had lost?”  The soldier and the people around then all began to leave . . . on by one . . . without saying a word . . . everyone was totally disgusted at James’ parent’s behaviour. 

The parents of James are not as shameful as the “tenants” in to Gospel Parable, because the tenants even killed all the servants and the landlord’s Son, when they came to collect the rent.  When they saw the landlord’s Son, they said, “This is the heir, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, “What about us?  How have we been using the gift of life and the abundant blessings that God has given us all the years of our lives and continue to give us daily, and will even continue to do so in the future?  Have we been grateful stewards of God’s blessings or have we been ungrateful recipients like James’ parents or the “tenants” of the Gospel? 

Do we have attitudes that are similar to James’ parents were we cannot see the bigger picture of how blessed we are to have a God who loves us so fully and unconditionally?  Are we like James’ parents and the “tenants” failing in our fundamental need to be grateful to God for all the blessings that we have received and continue to receive from Him daily? 

The stories of James’ parents and the Parable of the Tenants seem so extreme, but I have also come across of how a single parent mother, let us call her Agnes, who laboured day and night single-handedly for her thirteen children.  And when Agnes has spent all her earnings and energies for her children, in her old age, she finds herself in a nursing home, with none of her children even visiting her.  Agnes, would cry every day and she shared, “I have brought up thirteen children all on my own . . . and now, as I am old, thirteen children cannot even take care of one person.” 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, while these true stories, and the stories of James’ parents and the “tenant” are somewhat shocking, let us not fall into the same fundamental fault and sin of ingratitude to God, for the abundant blessings that He has showered on us.  If we do, then we are not too different from the people in the Parable of the “Tenants” and all the stories we have heard. 

Everything that we have in our lives, including the gift of life, and what we are today, have come from God.  We are mere stewards of the abundant blessings that God has showered on us . . . as they all belong to God . . .

n short, and as I conclude, let us remind ourselves that God in His overwhelming Goodness and Love have and continue bless us with life, family, financial wealth, health, intelligence, talents, work, and all kinds of relationships.   God’s deepest desires are that we use all these blessings that He has given us freely, to love one another as brothers and sisters. And in the end, when every person dies, we will be able to receive the final divine gift of living for all eternity in happiness, with Him in heaven. 

And so, my brothers and sisters, let us be reminded that the every day that God gives us, is meant to be lived meaningfully and fruitfully, and not merely routinely.  But, if we live with the greater awareness of God’s Presence in our lives, then each day will be filled with opportunities to live our lives wholesomely, as Jesus has shown us.  Every encounter of people will become opportunities to show them the compassion, forgiveness and mercy that Jesus wants us to show to them. 

And, if we live in such Christ-like ways, then every day will be filled with occasions of growth in holiness in the Lord and our intimacy with Jesus Christ, instead of living a life of ingratitude to God like the “tenants” in the Gospel orlike James’ parents and Agnes’ children in the very sad stories of ingratitude that we have heard. 

Let us remember that such sad stories could one day be OUR STORIES too, if we are not vigilant in showing our GRATITUDE to GOD and not sharing our BLESSINGS with others daily.  And so, the three basic questions that you and I need to ask and ponder on today and the coming weeks are:
What have we done . . . What are we doing . . . and What will we do . . . with the abundant blessings that God has given, is giving and will continue to give us in our lives? 

(Ref: Adapted from: Sri Chinmoy, The mind-jungles and the heart-gardens of life, Agni Press, 2001)

 

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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