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Pastor's Letter 20201004 - 04 October 2020 - Appreciation

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October  4th, 2020

27th Sunday, Ordinary Time

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:  “Appreciation”



Scripture Note

Today’s Scripture selections are centered about the analogy of a vineyard.  We hear Israel compared to a well-maintained vineyard that fails to produce fruit in the “Servant’s Song” of our First Reading (Isaiah 5:1-7.)

In our Second Reading, Paul cautions us not to be “anxious” (Philippians 4:6-9.)  His advice doesn’t mean we should never worry—good and sincere people are naturally worried about many things from time to time.  Given the pace of contemporary life, we certainly do not need more frantic activity. Rather, we need to rest in Christ's presence at each moment, neither nostalgic for the past nor fantasizing about a future we cannot yet see. When we do so, we find that Christ carries us forward very quickly indeed, yet at the same time there is always enough time for what truly needs to be done.  As part of the burden we carry, anxieties stem from reasonable caring for loved ones and those causes of the world in which we become involved.  Rather than talking about “normal” concerns, Paul refers to the debilitating and fruitless anxiety that weakens us, making it more difficult to find solutions to our problems.  Finally, he advises us how to live in order to enjoy true peace:  “…think about [those things that are] honorable...just...pure...lovely...gracious…. Keep doing what you have learned, received and heard in me….” 

The analogy continues as we consider that history is “littered” with stories of good tenants and wicked landlords.  However, in today’s Gospel, we hear a story of wicked tenants and a good landlord (Matthew 21:33-43.)  The parable is an allegory of God’s dealings with His people, to wit:  The landowner is God; the vineyard is Israel; the wicked tenants are the people of Israel—in particular, they are the religious leaders who have been given charge of the vineyard by God; the servants are the prophets sent by God and so often rejected an killed; and, finally, the Son is Jesus, Himself, Whom they killed. 

Like last week’s “Parable of the Two Sons,” this one was also directed at the chief priests and elders.  It was meant as a warning, but it went unheeded.  The tenants came to a bad end; Jerusalem was destroyed; and the Gentiles (herein portrayed as the “rejected” cornerstones,) replaced the Jews as God’s people.  

The Stone Rejected by the Builders

South Africa is a country that is blessed in a great many ways:  It is a large; has a good climate; and is rich in agriculture and minerals—especially gold and diamonds.  But the country, which should have been a haven for all the peoples of Southern Africa became, instead, a haven for a privileged white minority.  Many people vainly tried to change south Africa’s iniquitous “apartheid” system.  Eventually, Nelson Mandela appeared on the scene.  He also tried to bring about reforms, but like others before him, he was rejected by those at the helm of the state.  He was hounded by those in power, and finally convicted of sedition and imprisoned for twenty-seven years. 

Not only did he survive incarceration without bitterness, he emerged from it, becoming respected by his enemies, and the entire world.  He even sought reconciliation with the leaders of the regime that kept him in prison for all those years.  Even more impressive, this man—“the stone which the builders rejected”—became the “cornerstone” of a new and better “building:” a new, multi-racial South Africa. 

Mandela’s is one of the great stories of 20th century politics, in that it shows how “good” can finally triumph over “evil.”  And there is little disagreement among nations that what was done to him, his predecessors, and to his country, was, in fact, “evil.” No one, whose only crime is seeking justice for his brothers and sisters, deserved such treatment.  In the end, however, a new, free society emerged—becoming an international “good.”  Mandela’s story helps us better understand Jesus’ “Parable of the Vine-Dressers,” from today’s Gospel.

As the Omnipotent vine-dresser, our Creator has lavished us with many blessings.  Similarly, over the course of history, our “vineyard” has failed to produce the fruits of “right-living.”  The messages of the prophets sent to the human race over the ages have been spurned, ignored and rejected time and again.  Far from being heeded, some of them have been abused, and even killed. Our Blessed Lord, Jesus was sent unto mankind to teach us valuable lessons about appreciating God’s bounty.  Like the landowner’s son and his servants, He also was killed, out of jealousy and envy.  Even then, God did not abandon or destroy the “vineyard" of the world, in retaliation.  Rather, He handed it over to others, who would produce “fruits.”  A new “people of God,” the Church, came into being.

How lucky for us that God is not one to return evil for evil!  He was not vindictive in taking His vineyard from the Jews and giving it to the Gentiles.  As earlier tenants they brought this loss upon themselves.   Although God has never “given up” on His people, He persists, awaiting until the proper response.  There is only one way to overcome evil, and that is by doing good.  The lesson of the story is evidence that evil doesn’t have the “last say.”  In the end, “good triumphs.” 

No one can say that Jesus didn’t live in the “real world.”  Bring fully human, He also experienced the world’s ugliness.   Nonetheless, He didn’t reap evil retribution upon His detractors.  Rather, He became our model of goodness—showing those who suffer for the cause of right how to behave.  We are challenged, as His followers, tenants of a new vineyard, the Church, to produce the fruits of justice, love and peace.  What a great privilege we have been given!

The Search for Peace

The root of anxiety is lack of trust—in oneself, in others and especially in the Power beyond us all.  The best way to achieve peace is through careful, meditative prayer, allowing us to understand and accept of our lot in life.  With the help of the Holy Spirit we can find solace.  So often, however, the distractions of our busy lives and the clamor of other “voices” are too insistent and demanding of our attention.  Nonetheless, a it is the wise person who will periodically separate themselves from these distractions. 

This is not to suggest that prayer should take the place of action.  Nor is it implied that prayers will always be “answered.”  Prayer implies a willingness to allow the Spirit to direct us in the proper use of our inner, God-given talents and strength.  This help—including possible answers to our dilemmas—only becomes easier to accept with repetition.  With practice, we will come to know we have applied our best efforts to the tasks at hand.  Even disappointing results can be tolerated if we are first willing to “do the work” to explore the alternatives in a forthright manner. 

Through the years, many respected advisors have shown us the breadth of our inner strengths.  Such modern sages as Norman Vincent Peale (“The Power of Positive Thinking,) Napoleon Hill (“Think and Grow Rich,”) Earl Nightingale (“Lead the Field,”) and Maxwell Maltz (“Pycho Cybernetics,”) to name just a few, have meaningfully impacted many  people, teaching them to "turn inward” for inspiration.  The “inner light” that comes to us during such exercises has its source in our Creator.  Each of us possesses a storehouse of possibilities waiting to be accessed, which is the purview of our Immortal Soul.

Getting into the habit of meditative prayer is not something everyone will find “comfortable.”  Like physical therapy, “mental therapy” is only mastered by diligent effort.  However, it is not just a question of “thinking nice thoughts.”  We must make continually attempt to put our ideas into practice.  Thoughts alone will not suffice.  We will soon discover that there is only one way to overcome evil in our lives—and that is by doing good.   Paul assures us that “The peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard [our] hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  (We should be cautioned that peace doesn’t come always come from an easy and tranquil life.  Rather, we can find peace even in the midst of struggle and turmoil, provided we are on the side of “right.”  It's then the peace of God will find us.)


Isaiah’s lament, “What more could I have done for my vineyard that I have not done?” is a cry from the heart similar to that, which many parents have felt.  Seeing their children going astray in their lives, after many years of faithful nurturing, their sorrow is sometimes unbearable. 

Many cite their efforts in sending them to good schools—assuring that they have sufficient money for books and school outings; having been mindful to provide for their material well-being; providing them with consistent examples of good values—with an understanding of solid, religious principles; which often have been spurned and ignored by their children’s wanton choices.  Parents may interpret these results as evidence of their insufficient efforts.  The old adage that “children learn by example” in many cases has been shown not to be the case—and manifestly so. 

Nonetheless, when children abandon their faith, adopting lifestyles that can only be regarded as immoral, most parents still confess their love for them, bestowing favors out the goodness of their hearts.  Many times it’s difficult for loving parents not to be hurt when they are taken for granted.  How difficult it is to go on living in spite of it all.  Inevitably, this may lead to self-pity, and frustration, their sadness compounded by their children’s seeming lack of appreciation.

Scripture is replete with instances when God expected “just fruits” from His people, only to be stymied by their failures.  Hoping for a peaceful people, He has reaped wars; seeing true worship, He observed idolatry.  Looking for justice in their dealings with one another has brought injustice, corruption and exploitation of the poor and weak.  Wanting caring and sharing, He has witnessed human greed and acquisitiveness.  His yearning for community has netted much exclusivity and snobbery.  Seeking humility and Godly living, He has begotten pride and a pagan lifestyle.  All of us, at sometime or another have not only failed as individuals, but also as a Church. 

If we hope to live on the side of righteousness, we must always remember that our Christian communities are the vineyards of Christ.  He looks to us as His followers, the tenants of His vineyard, to accept the privilege and challenge to produce the fruits of justice, love and peace. 

May God Richly Bless You!

Only God can make the valley of trouble a passage of hope. ~~Hosea 2:14~~

To view a live stream of today's Liturgy of the Word, Click here: https://youtu.be/19C78nmxK9M

What Does the Lord Require.docx

What Does the Lord Require.mp3


Edited by Father Michael
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