March 1, 2013; First Friday Mass (C)
Gn 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28 Ps 105 Mt 21:33-43, 45-46
Deacon Jim McFadden; St. Francis H.S.
The story of Joseph being sold into slavery prefigures Jesus, who was betrayed by one of his own disciples and put to death on a cross. Jesus came to reconcile us to an all-just and merciful God. His parables point to the work he came to do within our community to bring us to the Kingdom of God. This work is not super-imposed from the top-down, but is like yeast in dough; in other words, building the Kingdom of God is an inside job, which requires our cooperation. We need to take care of business.
What is the message of the parable of the vineyard? To begin with, Jesus’ story about an absentee landlord and his not-so-good tenants would have been taken from their cultural experience. The hills of Galilee were lined with numerous vineyards, much the same way that the San Joaquin and Napa valleys and Foothills are dotted with them. It was common for that time for the owners to let out their estates to tenants. The owners would make a profit by collecting rent. Why did Jesus’ story cause consternation among his listeners? The parable was both a prophetic message and a warning: the house of Israel is the “vineyard of the Lord” (cf. Isaiah 5:7). Similarly, St. Francis, a CATHOLIC College Preparatory is also a vineyard where young women are called to be disciples and formed to be saints within an academic setting.
Does this parable speak to our community in 2013? It richly conveys some important truths about God and the way he relates to people. First, it tells of God’s generosity and trust. The vineyard is equipped with everything we, the tenants of St. Francis, need. The owner went away; he is not with us physically, but he has entrusted his estate to us, especially the young women whom we’re called to help form into disciples and saints. Are we cooperating with this mission? In order to be formators for the Troubies in the S.F. vineyard, we must be formed ourselves. There is a basic spiritual principle that says that “one cannot give what one does not have.” Are we embracing on-going Faith formation? Are we a community of public and private prayer, in which we daily rest in God’s presence as we engage in active and transformative communication and listening? Are we striving to plumb the depths of our Deposit of Faith in which we explore Sacred Scripture and Tradition? Are we fully, actively, and consciously participating in the Eucharist, especially on Sunday in which we keep holy the Sabbath? Are we living out Matthew 25 in which we minister to Jesus by serving the poor, which we will be doing today as a community?
This parable calls us to be honest with ourselves. Lent is a good time to take stock and to renew our commitment to participate in Jesus’ Mission in the S.F. vineyard. We should also be reassured by the patience of God. God does not give up on his people; not once, but many times he forgives the tenants for the debts that they owe the landowner. And, while the tenants will take advantage of that patience and lapse into indifference and rebellion, God’s plan, while being resisted, will not be overcome. His judgment and justice will prevail in the end.
Jesus foretold both his death and ultimate triumph. He would be both rejected and killed, but he also knew that after the rejection would come triumph and glory—the glory of Resurrection and Ascension. The Lord blesses his people with the gift of the Kingdom of God, which is happening right here at St. Francis. And he promises us that we will bear much fruit if we abide in him. He entrusts his gifts, especially our Troubies, and his grace to each one of us and he gives us work to do in his S.F. vineyard, the Body of Christ. He promises us that our labor will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end of our sojourn here. Let us work for the Lord with the joyful hope and confidence in his Resurrected victory!