27th Sunday Year A
October 5, 2014
WHAT RETURN SHOULD I MAKE?
I love dogs. I once had 5 of them – in stark contrast to now that I only have two. I think I take good care of them. I say this because the readings today speak also of love and solicitude – the overwhelming love of God for a people represented by a vineyard on a fertile hillside. Isaiah tells us that there was nothing the vineyard’s owner did not do for his vineyard. But Isaiah goes on … the vineyard did not produce as expected. And there was nothing that could lead anyone to question the reaction of the sorely disappointed owner.
“Tell me,” Isaiah seemed to say, “could you blame me for feeling this way?”
One reason I like dogs is they ostensibly seem to know how to return attention for attention; loyalty for tender loving care; obedience in return for its master’s solicitude. We all want to feel important time and again. We all want to feel attended to and followed loyally once in a while. And truly, after a long tiring day, whether it comes from other people or more modestly, from a mongrel, does not really matter, at least from the psychological point of view. Now, tell me … Could you blame me for not making light of my furry friend’s utmost attention and obedience after a grueling day at work?
And since we are talking of dogs, let us push the envelope a little more … Aesop talked about a dog with a bone who crossed a little bridge over a placid pond. The clear pond happened to reflect the image of what looked like another dog with a bone. Now the dog wanted it. At all cost. Cost what might. He barked. Furiously. Greedily. At the other dog. To get the other bone, too. He barked to get and grab, not to make a return favor.
Too bad, the world is caught up in that model of the greedy, avaricious dog of Aesop. That is the story of Isaiah’s friend whose vineyard did not bother to make any worthwhile return for all the care it had received.
Too sad the world is taken up by so much anxiety. We are barraged by news of people in power, whose appetite for more power is beaten only by an even greater desire for more wealth. A bone in the mouth is simply not of equal worth to the bone in the pond. A bone in the mouth … and one more, to be grabbed from the other menacing dog below is the ultimate wealth! The grace we receive from God right here right now always appears less than what people feel entitled to nowadays. Our sense of entitlement, living as we do in a world characterized by a narcissism epidemic, simply won’t get satisfied like the vineyard that was provided with a hedge, a wine press, a tower, plus an army of caring tenants! And the tragedy was that the vineyard had nothing to give in return.
Now, tell me: Could you blame the good Lord for telling this parable? The focus, however, shifts from the vineyard, to the tenants who were placed there to make the vineyard productive. And this is where the story really gets nasty … This is where we all find ourselves in, and I am no longer referring to dogs and the like, no matter how loyal and obedient they may be.
Please now, I beg you to leave the innocent dogs out of this. After all, they act, not out of goodness of malice, but out of instinct. They don’t have manners. They really don’t recognize favors done to them. They can only instinctively obey the one who owns the hand that feeds them. They really can make no return, and they have no understanding of ROI – return of investment.
But we do. Humans that we are, we definitely do. We receive favors. We are loved by God. Unconditionally. Prodigally. Undeservedly!
But what do we do? We do exactly like the tenants … blame and maul the hapless messenger and errand boy … reject the prophets sent from above … reject the One and Only Son sent to save us. We sin. We disobey. We disregard His teachings.
Today, we could learn a lesson or two from the tenants, if not from dogs. Dogs, at least, instinctively seem to return favors. They lick. They like. They sit, roll over, and do tricks. Tenants, despite the favors, can reject, refuse, resist, and rebel.
But you and I are human beings made much more than dogs, in point of fact, a little less than angels. And we can do better than the wicked tenants, can’t we? We can recognize. We can acknowledge. We can profess and proclaim. And we can make a promise.
Let us do one today and resolve to reciprocate God and His loving mercy. What return can you make for all the gifts given to you?
Marasbaras, Tacloban City
October 3, 2014