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Missions 109

Sunday Reflection

Sunday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time Year A

(Ez 18:25-28; Phil 2:1-11; Mt 21:28-32)

A story had been told about a king who “had a large orchard. He had got a variety of fruit trees planted there. He employed a skilled gardener to take care of the fruit trees. One day, the gardener would pick the ripe and juicy fruits from the various trees and gather them in a basket. Every morning when the royal court was in session, the gardener would go and give the fruits to the king. One day, the gardener collected some cherries and took them for the king. The king was in a bad mood. When he picked a cherry to taste, it was sour. So he vent out his anger on the gardener. In anger, he threw a cherry at the gardener. It hit him on the forehead but the gardener said, “God is merciful!” The king enquired, “You must be hurt and angry but you say God is merciful.” “Why?” The gardener said, “Your Majesty, I was going to bring pineapples for you today. But I changed my mind. If you had thrown a pineapple at me, I would have been badly hurt. God was merciful for having changed my mind.” (taken from http://www.english-for-students.com/God-is-Merciful.html) Mercy begins with a change of mind and will. As human as we are, we think of retaliation or revenge but instead of pursuing “an eye for an eye” or “tooth for a tooth” we have the capacity to show mercy. The three readings for this Sunday illustrate the path of mercy. In the first reading, the Prophet Ezekiel reminded the people Israel that when someone returns to the Lord, he will always obtain mercy from Him and the sign of this is life. In the second reading, Paul illustrated that the mercy God ultimately give is the death of Jesus on the Cross. The Gospel, we find mercy as linked to the change of mind.

1. Mercy is life- Mercy is the ultimate act that God could do to man when we speak of His divine intervention. If sin leads one to death, mercy leads one to life. The Prophet Ezekiel consoles the people of Judah saying that the one who seeks forgiveness will live. He said that when “he turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life.” Remember that the Prophet Ezekiel was the prophet of the Exile and he preached to the people without the Temple or the Promised Land to show God’s presence. The people were witnesses of how they suffered in their exile because they had forgotten the Temple. The prophet pronounced the oracles against Judah and Jerusalem before 586 BC and he pronounced the oracles of hope and restoration. It will be God’s mercy which will bring them back from their exile in Babylon to the Holy Land. New life will be the fruit of God’s mercy.

2. Mercy is the fruit of Obedience- For one who obeys, God will show His mercy. Jesus showed the connection between obedience and mercy. Jesus obeyed the Father that mercy may flow from the Cross where salvation and the mercy of God will be experienced. The Cross and mercy will change everything including human life. Pope Francis says “mercy is presented as a force that overcomes everything, filling the heart with love and bringing consolation through pardon.” (Misericordiae Vultus, 9) In the Gospel, we find the son who said “no” to the father who invited him to work in the vineyard, changed his mind because God’s mercy searches for those who say no to God. God’s mercy is powerful which changes the perspectives of man. Pope Francis continues to say “Jesus is bent on revealing the great gift of mercy that searches out sinners and offers them pardon and salvation.” (Misercordiae Vultus, 20).

3. Mercy is a gift of those who reciprocate mercy- The Gospel this Sunday illustrates the fruit of mercy. It was Jesus who said “Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy.” This statement may be understood as blessed are those who sow mercy and they will experience the fruits of mercy. The story of the man who had to sons is fascinating. The man approached the first son and said “Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.” Came the response, “No.” but later, he went. To the other son, he said, “Son, go out and work at the vineyard, today.” Came the answer, Yes, Sir, but later did not go. The first son who said “no” but later followed his father was a concrete example of mercy. The son was a witness of the father who works hard daily in the vineyard for their livelihood and food. The father shows his love and care for the family by earning their daily sustenance. But because the son who said “no” began to feel deep concern for the father and showed pity to the father who works alone in the vineyard now followed him. The father who cared for the family now receives equal care from the son.

Sunday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time Year A

(Isaiah 5:1-7; Phil 4:6-9; Mt 21:33-43)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India webpage opens its reflection today with this anecdote: “A girl named Kristi Yamaguchi was born to a young couple whose parents had emigrated to the U.S. from Japan in the early twentieth century.  Unfortunately, one of her feet was twisted.  Her parents tried to heal her by means of physical therapy.  To strengthen her legs further they enrolled her in an ice-skating class.  Kristi had to get up at four a.m. on school days to do her practice in the ice rink before she went to school.  This helped her to develop into a world-class figure-skater.  Believe it or not, in 1992 Kristi won the gold medal for the United States in women's figure-skating at the XVI Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, 1992.  Kristi thus became one of the several examples of “the stone rejected by the builders” becoming a “cornerstone” of the U.S. Women’s Olympic team.  Kristi is very passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of children.  In 1996, Kristi established the Always Dream Foundation whose mission is to encourage, support and embrace the hopes and dreams of children.” The readings today speak of the images of the people of God which is Jerusalem. The Prophet Isaiah describes God’s people or Jerusalem as a vineyard. It is a vineyard that is maintained and cared for by the Lord. The Letter of Paul to the Philippians demonstrates that the people of God seek heavenly values and searches for excellence in life. The Gospel speaks of the parable of the tenants were so complacent and were not productive. The son of the owner of the vineyard they killed foreshadowing Jesus as the heir who was murdered. He was the stone who was rejected and now becomes the cornerstone.

1. God cares for His people- The first reading today demonstrates the nature of God and the essence of who the chosen people are. The “vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel” reveals that God is the vine grower or vine care taker. God cares for the vineyard. He watches over it by placing a hedge around it and building a tower to oversee it. It is where He shows His love by the fertility of the vineyard. The vines bear fruit and the vine grower produces the choicest wines. It is God who cares and manages the vineyard and therefore surely He expects the vines yield rich harvests. But what if the vines do not bear fruit as expected? The Prophet Isaiah warns us that God has authority and power of His vineyard. He can do whatever he wants if the vines do not bear fruit. God does two things: he can destroy the vineyard and he may not send rain on it.

2. God’s people seek the values of heaven- The people of God seek things that are beyond this world. To be God’s people, St. Paul presents three elements: first, the people of God make their requests known to God through prayer and thanksgiving. If this is done, the peace of God will “guard your hearts and minds.” Second, the people of God think and aspire for things worthy of praise. So seek whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, and whatever is gracious. The people of God seek these virtues. Third, the people of God is faithful and proactive. The people of God acts on God’s word and avoids pay lip service and “the peace of God” will rest on him.

3. God’s people is the locus of His reward- The parable of the Tenants is important for understanding God’s ability to give rewards. The people of God are the first beneficiary of His benevolence and love. We see three important elements of God’s love. First, God willingly left His land to tenants. This shows that God shares and He is generous to make other people share the bounty of the vineyard. Love is being aware of the “other” who exists. Second, though God was not satisfied of the performance of the first batch, he sends out more tenants and workers more numerous than the first. God does not give up on the people He cares. Love is self-sacrifice. It is willing to give, sacrifice and die for the other. Third, though rejected by man, Jesus was exalted and becomes the cornerstone. This illustrates that God rewards those who are faithful. Therefore, love is one and faithful. God knows what lies in one’s heart. He wants to let those who rejected, misunderstood, ostracized, marginalized and hated most to rely on Him who rewards the just and those who follow Him. It was His experience that “the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.”