Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
In the last few Sundays, we have heard Jesus present parables in our Gospel passages. Interestingly, these parables are centred on working in the vineyard. We heard that of the master who kept hiring labourers in his vineyard, and today, we hear about the tenants who refused to deliver the expected products of the vineyard. As children of God, we have been hired (at various times) into His vineyard. Regardless of when we were hired, God expects us to bear fruits – He demands that at harvest time, we will account for our opportunities, gifts and talents.
Another theme that connects these parables is God’s patience, His willingness to continue forgiving and giving second chances. Remember that Jesus spoke these parables in response to Peter’s question: “How often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” In today’s parable, the Master kept sending messengers into the vineyard, not minding the negative reports they were bringing. He even sent his only Son. In this parable, Jesus is teaching us to be patient with others when they disappoint us, just as God is super patient with us.
Let us now consider other lessons contained in today’s readings:
*1. This World Is Not Ours*
Just as Jim Reeves sang, “This world is not my home…” Jesus reminds us again that we are just tenants at best in this world. The vineyard does not belong to us; we brought nothing to this world (as Job would say: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb”) and more still, just as the householder worked hard to put everything in place (planting, digging and building) before hiring the tenants, God created a world and put everything in order before creating us humans to “till it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15).
Too often, like the tenants in Jesus’ parable, we so easily forget that we are mere caretakers in this world and that no matter how hard we try, we can never own anything. Painfully, all our problems, fights, quarrels, worries and anxieties arise from our attempts to own the world. No wonder St. John would say: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father but of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it.” (1 John 2:15-17)
Consider the parable; it is a true picture of life on earth today. Know this: your money, your house, your land, your clothes, even your body; everything in your name is not yours. This is why Jesus would tell us, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20)
*2. Stop Worrying Over What Is Not (And Can Never Become) Yours*
Isn’t it funny that we spend our entire lives worrying about the things that we didn’t even bring into this world in the first place? Isn’t it strange that after all our struggles, pain, sleepless nights, and headaches, we would still have to relinquish everything one day? As the author of the book of Ecclesiastes asked: “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:3). No matter how wealthy, successful or influential we become, when our time comes, we must go. So why worry? On the other hand, no matter how poor we are, we still must go.
Jesus would say: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? … And which of you can add one cubit to his life span by being anxious?” (Matthew 6:25-27). This brings us to our second reading today, where we hear St. Paul say: “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6).
There are times we cannot help it. There are moments when I feel like the world is crumbling on my feet, moments I am overwhelmed with fear. As St. Paul says, the only cure for this feeling is PRAYER (acknowledging God, the owner of this world, making your requests known in faith Cf. Matthew 7:7) and THANKSGIVING. Yes, gratitude works magic. Learn to give thanks when you are worried; it helps to shift your mind away from the pain and gives you a reason to smile.
*3. Avoid Negativity; Learn to Select Your Thoughts*
In our second reading, St. Paul clearly defines the thoughts permitted in our minds as Christians. He says: “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8). St. Paul says: “Give no room for negativity.”
Come to think of it, were these thoughts in the minds of the tenants of today’s Gospel passage? If their thoughts were honourable, pure or lovely, would they beat up the servants who were sent to collect the produce of the vineyard? If their thoughts were good, would they kill the son of the householder? Dear friends, we must realise that the mind is so powerful and the thoughts we allow determine our lives. As the book of Proverbs says: “Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23). Even St. Paul warns that when we allow bad thoughts in our minds, we make the Holy Spirit sad. (Cf. Ephesians 4:30-32).
*4. Use Your Opportunities in Life, or they will go to Others.*
Jesus concludes our Gospel passage: “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” (Matthew 21:43). Dear friends, the will of God must certainly be done. If we refuse to cooperate with God, He will surely find willing others. As Jesus said in our Gospel passage last Sunday: “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matthew 21:31)
Your talents are gifts; your parents are gifts; your unique experiences in life are gifts –they are all opportunities in disguise. God does not work arbitrarily; He plans long before He does something (Cf. Jeremiah 29:11). Nothing happens by chance. Your life is not a mistake. Consider everything that has ever happened to you as God’s way of planting a vineyard, setting the hedge, digging a wine press and building a tower for you. Now, God expects you to bear fruits. You must give an account of your life.
Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God when my time here is over, may I bring a pleasing report before you. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: Isaiah 5:1-7, Ps. 80:9,12-16,19-20, Philippians 4:6-9, Matthew 21:33-43).*
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu