Doesn’t apply to me

With a lot more time at home during this pandemic, my family has discovered or maybe developed some new habits. One of my kids always (I really mean always) leaves her breakfast dishes on the dinning room table. The dishes sit there all day. Often we have to ask her to clear them before dinner time. This drives my wife crazy, which, in turn, drives me crazy. 

I tried to remedy this situation by making a general announcement and setting an expectation for the entire family. “All dishes should be cleared within 30 minutes of the completion of a meal with water glasses being the exception.” To which the serial offender turned to her sister and said, “That means you!”

The kid who created the need for a new rule and who needed to receive the direction didn’t know it was her who was the problem. How often is it that those who cause the issue don’t think the new rule is for them?

This weeks gospel is a prime example of this. Jesus tells a parable that paints the chief priests and elders as the villains and yet when Jesus asks what the evil tenants’ punishment should be, the chief priests and elders pronounce a harsh and merciless judgement. They didn’t know the story was about them! Idiots.

Oh, also, the parable is about us.

At least, it’s about me. Of course, the parable is about Israel and how when God wanted to bear much fruit, those in charge rejected the prophets and eventually Jesus. Yes. But the parable is also about every single time that God wanted to harvest a beautiful bounty in our lives and we failed to give God his due. This story is about every time we reject the prophets in our own lives and are selfish. This story is about when we deny Jesus Christ and choose our own path. When we sin we throw Jesus out of our vineyard and our sin brings about the cross. 

Jesus tells this parable as an invitation to return to God, to repent, to confess our sins and give God what belongs to God. What do we owe God? Everything. What do we get from God in the first place? Everything. The only thing God doesn’t give us is our sin. So we need to give him that too. 

Just as the vineyard owner is ostentatiously merciful, giving the tenants chance after chance to repent and give over the fruit of the harvest, God gives us chance after chance to respond to him with love and surrender. Will you give God what you owe him? 

Aren’t convinced that this parable is about you? Neither were the chief priests or elders.

LIVE IT: You probably live a fruitful life. You have produced many things, experiences, maybe even people. Have you given them to God? Make a list of everything you have produced in the last 7 days – work, home, hobbies, children, etc. Take some time over the next 3 days to offer those things over to God. One by one offer them up in prayer to God. 

Sunday Readings for Oct 4th, 2020.

Actually…

February 19th Sunday Readings.

I have a friend who owns the word “actually.”  Well, she doesn’t actually own it, but she actuallyuses it so much she might as well buy it for herself. In conversation, someone will say some inaccuracy and she will respond with, “Well, actually…” and then proceed to correct the person. She has become aware that correcting people by leading with the word “actually” can be obnoxious and tries her best to avoid it. (Especially since her daughter started actually-ing her.)

While she is an “actually” person, others are “supposed to” people. A “suppose to” person is someone who is burdened with what they are “supposed to” do. Sometimes that means that they make sure everyone else knows what they are “supposed to” do. Full disclosure, I can be a “supposed to” person. If I’m honest most of the time I feel the urge to “suppose to” something, it really is just a “supposed to” that I personally find important.

In the gospel Jesus twice says, “You have heard it was said…” and then he goes on to give a “suppose to” statement. It is as if Jesus is saying, “The way things are, we are all supposed to…” Then Jesus explains further and contradicts those “supposed to” statements, but not in the way we might expect. Instead of basically letting us off the hook and telling us that these “supposed to” statements are too hard to do, Jesus tells us we need to take them even further.

If we are supposed to make things equal for everyone, Jesus says we are supposed to sacrifice even if it isn’t fair. If we are supposed to love the people who support us and hate those trying to take us down, Jesus says we are supposed to love our enemies. Jesus isn’t just ratcheting up the commitment here, he is turning “supposed to” on it’s head, and in the process, he is explaining something beautiful about who God is and who we are.

Too often, we make God in our image. We give God our attributes and inclinations. We also can give him our shortcomings, problems, shortsightedness, and pettiness. This gospel reminds us that we are made in God’s image. God is perfect. God is holy. Everyday, we have the choice to go beyond our own “supposed to” to love like God loves.

LIVE IT:
Pray for your enemies. Who do you consider an enemy? Take 2 minutes to pray for them right now.

You gotta play by the rules

February 12th Sunday Readings

I loved recess. I’m not saying it was the best part of my day or that I didn’t like actual class, but at recess I could play with my friends, do whatever we wanted to, and just have fun. For the first half of 4th grade, I spent most recesses arguing. My friends and I were trying to play football, but usually we would just end up arguing, sometimes about what happened, but usually about the rules. The reason was we didn’t develop or agree to any set of rules for our pickup football game. So after picking teams, we would just start and then something would happen that would cause us disagree. The lack of agreed upon rules kept us from being free to really have fun.

Sometimes rules get a bad rap. Rules are seen as the things that keep us from being free. Sometimes we even paint Jesus as the ultimate rule breaker and rebel. Yet, in the gospel for this Sunday Jesus says this, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.”

When the rules come from God, they are rules made for our own good. If you believe in God and you believe that God loves you and you believe that he knows what is best for you, then the rules he sets are not restrictions to suffocate you, but, truly, rules to let you be free and happy.

G.K. Chester wrote this, “Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground.” He goes on to describe an island in the ocean with walls all around the cliff edge of the island. When the walls remained, children ran free and happy. When the walls were removed, the children silently huddled together in the center of the island. When we know our boundaries, we can have more fun, freedom, and happiness within them.

Live It:
What rule or moral guideline or teaching of the Church do you struggle to agree with? When was the last time you prayed about it and took your objection to prayer? Take 3 minutes this week (all at once or broken up into small segments) to pray about that rule or law that you struggle with. Offer it up to God, offer up your questions and objections, and then be silent and let God speak.