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MONDAY HOMILY: The Generosity and Patience of God

By Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds
June 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The tenants of the parable made this mistake.  They had forgotten the work of the landowner, which gave meaning and purpose to their own.  They could not be satisfied until they owned everything.

CATHOLIC ONLINE (Sugar Land, TX) Like any good storyteller, Jesus crafts his parables to capture the attention of his hearers and to communicate important teachings.  The parable in today's Gospel reading (Mark 12:1-12) makes use of the familiar activity of tenant farming, a common arrangement in ancient Israel.  In order to make his land more productive an owner would allow someone to farm his property in exchange for a percentage of the produce.  

In the case of this parable, Jesus describes a man who builds improvements on his property, plants a vineyard, and then leases it out.  So far, so good.  However, once the growing season has ended and the owner sends someone to collect his portion of the harvest, problems arise.  

The tenants turn away one representative.  A subsequent messenger is roughed-up.  Finally, the tenants murder one of the owner's agents.  The Gospel tells us that the owner continued to send envoys to his land.  Each of them is assaulted or murdered in turn.  Finally, they kill the owner's son.  

What is going on?

Two details attract our attention. The first is that the tenant farmers believe that they will obtain ownership of the vineyard if they continue their violent treatment of the landlord's representatives.  What could have given them such an idea? 

The farmers forgot that they did not own the land.  They were only stewards.  As tenants, the workers had the obligation to return to their landlord a portion of the proceeds of their labor.  Perhaps when they began to work and saw the fruit of their labor, they conveniently forgot that their success rested upon the blessings provided by the owner.

Does this sound familiar?  How easy it is to be forgetful of God's blessings!  The cultivation of a life of faith and an awareness of God's goodness are essential in order to avoid this pitfall. And we should never imagine that God's blessings are rights instead of gifts.

The tenants of the parable made this mistake.  They had forgotten the work of the landowner, which gave meaning and purpose to their own.  They could not be satisfied until they owned everything.

Does this ring a bell?  Recall one of the earliest passages of Scripture, when Adam and Eve are tempted by the Devil to turn away from God.  "You will be like God," he promised them (Genesis 3:5), if only they would decide to be masters and not servants.

The parable reflects of the state of many in Israel during the time of Christ.  They had forgotten that they were stewards and not masters.  God made the Chosen People the custodians of the mysteries of salvation, of his holy Word, and of his promise of salvation.  Some were faithful to this charge; others were not.  

When God sent emissaries among the people - the prophets - to call them back to a richer, fuller participation in the divine promises, they were often met with rebellion.  Nevertheless, God was patient, even to the point of sending his divine Son, who will be slain in the vain attempt of some to preserve or acquire what is not theirs.

The forbearance of God is another of the striking details of this parable.  God is so patient with us!  He goes beyond the bounds of justice to give us every possible chance to respond to him, because of his love for us.  Who of us would be as patient as he, especially in light of the circumstances described in the parable?  

May we never forget God's blessings, and always recall that we are stewards and not masters of God's gifts. 

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Fr. Stephen B. Reynolds is the Pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas. You are invited to visit them on the Web at: www.SugarLandCatholic.com.

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