“He was one of Columbia University’s history superstars,” a writer said recently of the late Professor Carlton J. H. Hayes (1882-1964). As an historian, Carlton Hayes was a lifetime seeker of truth. This quest not only brought him into the Catholic Church; it also brought him into genial but firm controversy with those of divergent opinions, even his fellow-Catholics. His special field of study was the current growth and dangers of excessive nationalism throughout the world. Fully acquainted with the threat of modern totalitarianism, he warned of the evils it could produce if not countered. Yet he never allowed himself to worry unduly about tomorrow. “If we are occupied with thoughts immortal or divine … or, for the matter of that, in doing anything that we feel is worth doing, we have neither time nor inclination to brood over our personal future.”
Professor Hayes gave his students at Columbia the same sort of calm advice in the last lecture he delivered before his retirement in 1950. “The world,” he said, “is pretty badly off. But I don’t want you to lose any sleep over it.”
Pope Pius XI had said much the same thing two decades before: “The future is in God’s hands, and therefore in good hands.”
“…Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.” (Philippians, 4:6. Today’s second reading).
-Father Robert F. McNamara
Q496: This parable today isn’t just about fruit and grapes and a tough landlord. Is there some meaning hidden there for me to act on today?
I find today’s Gospel story (Matthew 21:33-43) to be both sad and a forewarning. First comes the sadly distressing part. Even though so many of us (who call ourselves ‘Christian’) have “found the treasure” – the Messiah, many more who were the originally ‘chosen’ people have rejected him because he did not meet their political expectations. These latter folks recognize that Jesus was a Jew, but despite the evidence they deny his Resurrection from the dead; deny that he is the Messiah; and deny that he is the Son of God, the only faithful and true Israelite who could represent his people and save them.
The second part or “forewarning” is implicit in the story. Since so many Israelites did not bear fruit (i.e., respond appropriately to their Call to be the light to the Gentiles), the “vineyard” was turned over to others, to Gentiles who would indeed “bear fruit” and harvest the kingdom of God. However, the responsibility to bear fruit, to bring others to the Truth by acting as the light of Christ to the world, will always remains a significant challenge for Christians. If we become lax and our light goes out, then we will be in no better position that the first group who did not believe. In fact, we will be in a worse dilemma, because we believed but stopped acting on that belief.
The Call of the Israelites was to be a light to All the Nations. It was not a gift to be hoarded by them, producing a sense of superiority over others. Instead, it was a call to be a Servant for others. Now that same Call falls upon you and me, to be a beacon for Christ. Are you helping to build up the Body of Christ by your thoughts, words, deeds and prayers? Can you see how inactivity on your part might lead to your own personal loss of the vineyard, and consequently the same awesome judgment from the owner?
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! The vineyard was “planted” by God, and the True Vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the “branches” (those who believe in Him). Without the life from the True Vine, we can do nothing. (CCC #755) Pray that God’s light and truth find its way into every heart in the world!
What More Can I Do That I have not Already Done?
We might well take these words of the Lord and apply them to ourselves. We are the vineyard of the Lord. God has planted the seed, his word, within us. He has nurtured the ground and protected the seed. But what kind of harvest has he had from us? Given the right conditions and good soil, water and sun, seed will produce fruit. But unlike real seeds we can chose not to bear fruit or at least not much. God has been generous in giving us gifts, but they are to be used to build the kingdom of God. Just as today’s parable led the priests and elders to pass judgment on themselves, it calls us to pass judgment on ourselves. What we may stand condemned for in the light of this parable may not be so much the malice and evil of the public sinner, but rather the sloth and sluggish inertia of those who feel externally good enough, but have not allowed God’s gift them to produce the full harvest.
Lord, we are your vineyard. You are for us, preserve us, give us always new life. Wake us from our complacency so that we can listen, be converted and produce good fruit.