It seems impossible for me to preach this today without saying something about the terrible, tragic event that happened last Sunday night in Nevada. The parable of the wicked tenants in the Vineyard helps explain how some such evil things happen and what the response of God will be. Consider:
♦ God has given us the freedom to choose. Sometimes we make poor choices. We build houses in flood planes or places where hurricanes, wildfires, or earthquakes can be expected.
♦ God has given us the freedom to act. In the parable, the owner of the vineyard gave the tenants the freedom to live by their agreement or not, the freedom to listen to his servants and his son or not. We are free to listen to God or not, to love God or not. Love cannot be forced. Love to be real must be freely given.
♦ The senseless mass murder in Las Vegas was not God’s will. Nor was it God’s judgment upon a sinful city. How the tenants acted in today’s gospel and what the shooter did makes no sense to us.
♦ Never forget that while God is merciful, loving, forgiving, and compassionate. Jesus Christ is also judge of the living and the dead. We have the freedom to act. But our actions have consequences. God holds us accountable. We will be judged. When Jesus Christ comes again in glory at the end of time, all the wrongs will be righted, all evil will be conquered, all questions will be answered, and we will understand the who’s, what’s, why’s, and how’s of history in general and our lives in particular.
In the course of his ministry, the St Paul was ridiculed, rejected, exiled, stoned, beaten, imprisoned, & shipwrecked. When he wrote to the Philippians he was under house arrest in Rome chained to a Roman guard. His letter overflows with joy. In today’s passage, he gives us three things to do to find the help we need at a time like this.
♦ First, find help for your heart through praying. As Saint Pio put is so aptly, “Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless.” When we pray God can give us the peace God alone can give.
♦ Second, find help for the mind by thinking. Think about whatever is true, honorable, pure, holy, good, etc. Don’t watch the news all day. It will only make you angry or depressed. Think about the promises of Jesus to be with us always no matter what happens. Remember that Jesus wants us to have life in abundance through the Holy Spirit living within us.
♦ Finally, find help for life by doing. Keep living, loving, and giving as Jesus taught and showed us— always try to do the next right thing— and we will experience peace and joy.
What Jesus said in the Gospel of Mark years ago on earth, the risen Lord repeats and reaffirms today, “Do not be afraid. Just have faith.” (Mk. 5:36)