“We enter the Kingdom when we welcome Jesus into our lives and follow Him” Is 5: 1-7 The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel. Ps 80: 9-20 The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel. Phil 4: 6-9 Do these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Mt 21: 28-32 He will lease his vineyard to other tenants.
I.THE WORD OF GOD
Today´s Gospel announces the third parable of the Kingdom, which is a summary of salvation history: God´s predilections; his people; the prophets, those sent to gather the fruits of the vineyard, murdered by the vineyard workers; the Son, “the One sent”, whom they «killed»; Jerusalem´s desolation… The emphasis of the parable - particularly in light of the song of the vineyard in today´s first reading – is placed on God´s love for the vineyard: he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines… These are all expressions which reveal God´s loving and tender care for his People, Israel; chosen to proclaim and bring salvation to every nation; the same love he has for each one of us, his new People. In order to fully understand this love, we need to contemplate history of salvation, and the story of our own lives: how God has poured fourth his infinite tenderness. Hence the painful cry of God´s heart in face of our lack of correspondence to his love: «What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?» And the luminous side of the story: the salvific outcome, «The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?». In consequence, the Kingdom will be handed on «to a people that will produce fruit», to the Church, the “new Israel” called to unity by Jesus himself with the Apostles at the center; the people of the last hour, those Hired at “the end of the day”, us. Before so much love and care, it is easier to understand the gravity of our lack of response; God himself has prepared a vineyard and placed it in our hands, making a covenant with us. Hence the absurdity of our sinfulness: the vineyard, so well-tended to by God isn´t bearing the fruits it was meant to bear. What is even worse, what is truly an abomination is that the workers could appropriate for themselves the vineyard, and reject the owner. This, in the final analysis is what happens when we sin: instead of living as sons and daughters, who receive all things from God, in radical dependence of Him; when we sin we take possession of what is not ours; we misuse God´s gifts at will; to the point of usurping the place of God. This is the real atrocity of sin. It is for this reason that God´s stern warning is also directed at us, to remove the vineyard from us and hand it to others who will yield fruit in due season. We find it at times difficult to understand that the vineyard/Kingdom is not our personal property. We are only unworthy laborers who have the underserved privilege to be called to serve the Lord and his people.
II. THE FAITH OF THE CHURCH (CCC)
595 Among the religious authorities of Jerusalem, not only were the Pharisee Nicodemus and the prominent Joseph of Arimathea both secret disciples of Jesus, but there was also long-standing dissension about him, so much so that St. John says of these authorities on the very eve of Christ's Passion, "many.. . believed in him", though very imperfectly.378 This is not surprising, if one recalls that on the day after Pentecost "a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith" and "some believers. . . belonged to the party of the Pharisees", to the point that St. James could tell St. Paul, "How many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; and they are all zealous for the Law." 596 The religious authorities in Jerusalem were not unanimous about what stance to take towards Jesus. The Pharisees threatened to excommunicate his followers. To those who feared that "everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation", the high priest Caiaphas replied by prophesying: "It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish." The Sanhedrin, having declared Jesus deserving of death as a blasphemer but having lost the right to put anyone to death, hands him over to the Romans, accusing him of political revolt, a charge that puts him in the same category as Barabbas who had been accused of sedition. The chief priests also threatened Pilate politically so that he would condemn Jesus to death.
III CHRISTIAN TESTIMONY
Good Friday: Jesus' death on the cross is his sublime, divine, heroic lesson on the meaning of love. He had given everything: a life lived in obedience at Mary's side, amidst discomfort. Three years of preaching, revealing the truth, bearing witness to the Father, promising the Holy Spirit and working all kinds of miracles of love. Three hours on the cross, from which he forgave his executioners, opened heaven to the good thief, gave us his Mother, and finally, his body and blood, after having given them to us mystically in the Eucharist. Only his divinity remained. His union with the Father -- that most sweet and ineffable union which had made him so powerful on earth as God's Son, and so majestic on the cross -- that awareness of God's presence had to withdraw into the deepest recesses of his soul and became imperceptible, separating him in some way from the One whom he had said was one with him: "The Father and I are one" (Jn. 10:30). Within him love had been annihilated, light extinguished, wisdom silenced. Thus he made himself nothing, to make us partakers in the all that he is; a worm of the earth (Psalm 22:7), to make us children of God. We were separated from the Father. It was necessary that the Son, in whom we all are, should feel separated from the Father. He had to experience being forsaken by God, so that we might never be forsaken again. He had taught that no one has greater love than the one who gives his life for his friends. He who is life itself was giving himself completely. It was the culmination of his love, love's most beautiful expression. All the painful aspects of life conceal his face: They are nothing other than him. Yes, because Jesus, crying out in his abandonment, is the image of those who are mute: He no longer knows how to speak. He is the image of one who is blind -- he cannot see; of one who is deaf -- he cannot hear. He is the weary person, moaning. He is on the brink of desperation. He is hungry ... for union with God. He is the image of one who has been deceived, betrayed; he seems a failure. He is fearful, timid, disoriented. Jesus forsaken is darkness, melancholy, contrast. He is the image of all that is strange, indefinable that has something monstrous about it. Because he is God crying out for help! He is the lonely person, the derelict. He seems useless, an outcast, in shock. Consequently we can recognize him in every suffering brother or sister. When we approach those who resemble him, we can speak to them of Jesus forsaken. To those who recognize that they are similar to him and are willing to share his fate, he becomes: for the mute, words; for the doubtful, the answer; for the blind, light; for the deaf, voice; for the weary, rest; for the desperate, hope; for the separated, unity; for the restless, peace. With him the person is transformed and the non-meaning of suffering acquires meaning. He had cried out a "why?" to which no one replied, so that we would have the answer to every question. The problem of human life is suffering. Whatever form it may take, however terrible it may be, we know that Jesus has taken it upon himself and -- as if by a divine alchemy -- he transforms suffering into love. I can say from my own experience that as soon as we lovingly accept any suffering in order to be like him, and then continue to love by doing God's will, if the suffering is spiritual, it disappears; if it is physical, it becomes a light burden. When our pure love comes in contact with suffering, it transforms it into love. In a certain sense, it divinizes the suffering. We could almost say that the divinization of suffering that Jesus brought about continues in us. And after each encounter in which we have loved Jesus forsaken, we find God in a new way, more face-to-face, with greater openness and fuller unity. Light and joy return; and with the joy, that peace which is the fruit of the spirit. This light, joy, and peace which blossoms from suffering that is loved, strikes people and moves even the most difficult persons. Nailed to the cross, we become mothers and fathers of souls. The effect is the greatest possible fruitfulness. As Olivier Clément writes: "The abyss, opened for an instant by that cry, is filled with the great wind of the resurrection." Every disunity is annulled, traumas and splits are healed, universal brotherhood is resplendent, miracles of resurrection abound, a new springtime begins for the Church and for humanity. Chiara Lubich
IV. CHRISTIAN PRAYER
Lord Jesus Christ, take all my freedom, my memory, my understanding, and my will. All that I have and cherish You have given me. I surrender it all to be guided by Your will. Your grace and Your love are wealth enough for me. Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more. Mary, Mother of God, Blessed Virgin Mary, Blessed Mother of Love, help me to see God's love for me today like I've never seen His love for me before! Amen
V. A BIT OF THIS & A BIT OF THAT
We bid a sad farewell to Lucia, Fran, Estefanía, Caty and Natalia, with deep gratitude for all the shared with God´s poorest of the poor, living Face of His Son Jesus Christ. Thank you all for coming! And let us do great things for our beloved people of Gode, in the name of Our Lord throughout the coming week.