Gratitude and Humility vs. Greed and Selfishness

10-08-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

“You can’t have it both ways!” There are many things we wish for and make decisions about. The most important decisions put us on a path we cannot veer from if we are going to be faithful to them. When we do, we have conflicting thoughts and feelings and we can hurt others as well as ourselves in the process. Today’s Gospel presents a parable where greed and selfishness take precedence over gratitude and humility. A landowner plants a vineyard and sets everything up, even to the point of installing a wine press. Then he rents it out to tenants and expects a piece of the profits. When he sends representatives to collect what is justly his, they are beat up and some are even killed. Finally, he sends his son with the hope that the tenants will respect him. But they do not. The tenants see this as an opportunity to take the vineyard for themselves as they kill even the son. The parallel here is that that God’s chosen people were sent prophets again and again to call them back to faithfulness, to recognize that all they are and have are a result of God’s goodness to them. Finally, the Son of God, Jesus, came to give us the fullness of life and even He was rejected.

We are the people of God today. The vineyard is the world we live in. What does God expect from us? The very thing we would expect since we are created in the image and likeness of God - humble gratitude and joy. We all have talents and abilities and working together with one another we can accomplish great things. It is easy to work together when we are all of one mind and have respect and love for one another. It becomes much more difficult when feelings of jealousy, disappointment, and selfishness creep in. We start to question one another’s motives and seek allies who think like we do to talk about those we feel are the problem. Jesus dealt with these types of scenarios. As much as He was the source of healing, joy, and gratitude, He was also the source of anger and suspicion, especially to those who were comfortable and closed-minded in their understanding of God. Like anyone else we come to know, God will always reveal more and more of Himself to us. The question is, “What does this revelation cause us to do?” First and foremost God reveals His unconditional love for us. In the Old Testament, He sent prophets to His people over and over again to call them back to His love, truth, and mercy. As often as not the prophets were questioned, ostracized, and rejected. The price paid for the refusal to listen to God’s messengers was the disintegration of their national unity and their personal inner integrity. Once God was no longer the foundation of their life with one another, it became every man for himself. But God never gave up. As it says in the fourth Eucharistic Prayer: “And when through disobedience he had lost your friendship, you did not abandon him to the domain of death. For you came in mercy to the aid of all, so that those who seek might find you. Time and again you offered them covenants and through the prophets taught them to look forward to salvation.” God does not hunt us down to punish us but reaches out with His love and mercy to help us live fully who we have been created to be. The fourth Eucharistic Prayer continues: “And you so loved the world, Father most holy, that in the fullness of time you sent your Only Begotten Son to be our Saviour. Made incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, he shared our human nature in all things but sin. To the poor, he proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom, and to the sorrowful of heart, joy. To accomplish your plan, he gave himself up to death, and, rising from the dead, he destroyed death and restored life.” How much clearer can God and His love for us be? One of the thoughts from “Strangers in a Strange Land” by Archbishop Chaput is: “Catholicism is not about our search for God, but God’s search for us.” Every time we turn to Him in prayer He is listening and responding. Every time we seek out His mercy in the Sacrament of Penance He readily and joyfully forgives our sins. Every time we seek His presence at Mass, He is there with His Word, Ear, and very presence in the Eucharist. Jesus came to destroy death, not only our physical death but also anything that drains His life out of us. When His life is drained out of us we become hard-hearted, closed-minded, selfish, angry, greedy, and unfaithful to Him and others.

This weekend we will have another second collection to assist the victims of the hurricanes. We were generous with our concern for the victims of Hurricane Harvey and now we will show our concern for the victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. This is a concrete sign of our unity with the Heart of Jesus. God’s life is flowing through us, enabling us to be generous. Not only is this a sign that we are rising beyond the life-draining power of selfishness, it is a sign that God’s love is animating our minds and hearts. To continue to do this not only in extraordinary ways that arise but also in the routines of our daily lives, we need to be nourished by the loving Presence of God over and over again. How good it is to be with those we love and who love us in return. The Church is our vineyard. Not just our physical building, but the whole people of God who comprise the Church throughout the world. What a powerful source for goodness and love we can be when together we live out what we say we believe. How blessed we are to have the gifts of prayer, the Eucharist, and Confession to guide, sustain, and renew us every day of our lives. “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen!” How good it is when we live as the Glory of God!

Fr. Wald