REFLECTION ON THE READINGS
The exasperated Bernadone beat Francis, fettered his feet, and locked him up. A little later his mother set him free and Francis returned to St. Damian’s. His father pursued him there and angrily declared that he must either return home or renounce his share in his inheritance-and pay the purchase price of the horse and the goods he had taken as well. Francis made no objection to being disinherited, but protested that the other money now belonged to God and the poor. Bernadone had him summoned for trial before Guido, the bishop of Assisi, who heard the story and told the young man to restore the money and trust in God. “He does not wish,” the bishop said, “to have His church profit by goods which may have been unjustly acquired.” Francis not only gave back the money but went even further. “My clothing is also his,” he said, and stripped off his garments. “Hither to I have called Peter Bernadone father…. From now on I say only, ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven.’”
Today’s Gospel tells of an allegory in which Jesus describes how a landowner (God the Father) planted a vineyard (Israel and then later the Church) and then the tenants rebelled against the landowner, seized the landowner’s servants; beat the servants; and stoned the servants. After that, still confident that the tenants would repent, the landowner sent His Son (Jesus) to which the tenants responded by seizing Him, throwing Him out of the vineyard and then killing Him. This parable reveals a necessary truth about our spiritual life; that we are “tenants” in regard to the gifts that God has given us.
Is it not true that we often convince ourselves that we are the landowners? But we ought to ask ourselves: what in our lives cannot be taken away from us? Everything we have and need for our existence is given to us. St. Francis recognized this, the saints recognize this, but do we recognize this?
I think oftentimes the difficulty that many of our brothers and sisters have in following a religion and even simply believing in God stems from an understanding that if we eliminate God from the equation of our lives, then we can take possession of those things around us. If God isn’t in control then I’m in control. But we are the tenants who care for the vineyard – we are not the owners! Everything that we have can be taken away. And so acknowledging this reality, today’s Gospel should help us reflect on how well we use or share what God has given us… whether that be our intelligence, or success, our talents, our time, our love.
God gives us the ability and the grace to run “this vineyard,” but we should do so knowing that we are not the owners but merely the tenants.
Holiness is not the accumulation of virtues.
Holiness is being possessed by God.