Patience, praise and pain

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Gospel Commentary MT 21:33-43

 

Allow me to propose three words: patience, pain and praise, and a few questions for our reflection on today’s readings.

 

Patience

 

I went to confession last Saturday. God’s patience with me is extraordinary. Over and over, down through the years, our Heavenly Father has extended His compassionate mercy to me. While I am able to rejoice greatly in a measure of growth in prayer and virtue over time, I still bring many of the same struggles and sins to confession … and God is faithful to His promise of mercy.

 

Jesus recounts a parable for us in the Gospel today that highlights God’s tremendous patience. The parable is about a landowner who goes to great measures to carefully prepare a vineyard and then sends out his servants at harvest time to gather his produce. The tenants treat the landowner’s servants very poorly, beating one, stoning another and even killing a third. The landowner then sends out other servants, more numerous than the first ones, who are treated in the same fashion. The landowner, who represents God, exercises remarkable patience with his tenants. One could argue that his patience was unreasonable and certainly inappropriate from a business perspective. The landowner is unexpectedly willing to keep giving a second chance to his ungrateful, recalcitrant tenants.

 

Do I spend enough time rejoicing in the patience God has exercised with me over the years?

 

Pain

 

I think that this was one of the most painful parables for Jesus to tell. It is a little too close to home … it is His story. The Landowner is a clear reference to God, the Father. The servants generally are understood to be an allusion to the prophets and judges in the Old Testament, like Jeremiah and Samson, whom the people stoned, beat and killed. God spent a long time, more than 1,000 years, teaching and shepherding His flock, gradually revealing Himself, His love and His truth to the Hebrew people. However, many of the chosen people remained hard-hearted and selfish.

 

I get sick to my stomach imagining Jesus say these next few lines. “Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.”

 

Do you strive in your prayer life to better understand the suffering Jesus endured for your sake?

 

Praise

 

In your everyday life, what do you find yourself praising? The weather, a nice meal, certain sports victories (the Redskins are 2 and 1)? St. Paul in the first reading today gives us a practical application of a challenge he issued in Rom 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind so that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” In this verse from Romans, Paul is teaching us that the grace of Christ, the grace of conversion, demands the renewal of our minds.

 

In today’s reading from his letter to the Philippians, Paul challenges us to reflect critically about the things we think about, even the things we praise. The Apostle to the Gentiles states, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

 

God is inviting us through Paul the Apostle to spend more time pondering and praising those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and gracious. This does not mean that we should not praise the Lord for nice weather, a meal cooked with skill and love, or even a new and improved University of Virginia football team. Rather, it is an invitation to ponder deep, lasting and moral beauty and goodness.

 

A young person recounted to me recently a very intense commitment to live in a completely chaste relationship with his girlfriend. I spent some time praising God for His grace in this young person’s life.

 

What will you praise God for tonight as you prepare for bed?

 

Fr. Peterson is director of mission and development for the Youth Apostles.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017