In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the landowner who leased his vineyard to tenants who beat and killed his servants. When the landowner’s son came, the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.” Contained in that sentiment is the root of every tragedy known to man. In his Theology of the Body, John Paul II described original sin (the sin from which all horrors flow) as the questioning – and, ultimately, the denial – of God’s gift. From eternity, the Father has bestowed the riches of his Love upon the Son as a free gift, and we yearn to participate in that inheritance. But we came to believe the utter lie that God is a tightwad, that he was keeping his gift to himself and didn’t want to fulfill the desires of our heart. We thought the only way to get what we wanted was to kill God’s Son. Oh the tragic irony: in the very act of trying to take the life we wanted, the Son was offering it to us freely – “This is my body given up for you….” Lord, show us the ways we deny your gift. Help us to repent and believe the good news of your gift to us!
St. Paul tells us in this weekend’s second reading to conduct ourselves “in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27). What is that way? The other readings show us: generosity. Our God “is generous in forgiving,” says Isaiah in the first reading. And the Gospel parable about the landowner who pays a full day’s wages to the workers who only worked an hour is all about God’s generosity: “Are you envious because I am generous?” Since we’re made in God’s image as male and female, we would expect to see an image of God’s generosity written right into our bodies. And, indeed, we do. God made us sexual beings precisely to enable us to image and participate in the lavishness and generosity of his love. Interestingly, have you ever noticed that the word “eros” is at the center of the word gen-eros-ity? Christ “will be magnified in my body,” as Paul says in the second reading, whenever I live eros as the generous gift of myself for others.
The readings this weekend are all about mercy and forgiveness. The Gospel parable of the unmerciful servant demonstrates that – “and this is daunting,” admits the Catechism – God’s “mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us” (CCC 2840). Forgiveness, however, is often misunderstood. It does not mean saying to someone who has wounded you, “It’s okay.” If it were “okay,” there would be no reason to forgive the person. Furthermore, forgiveness does not remove the offender’s responsibility before God. Rather, forgiving someone means releasing that person to God’s justice and mercy. As the Catechism wisely observes, “It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession” (CCC 2843). The hurt that the sins of others cause us is real. But, if we have the courage to allow the miracle of mercy to work in us, that hurt can be transformed into prayer, into intercession. Sin committed against us can become – if we allow it – an occasion of salvation, both for us and for the person who sinned against us. We pray that God would forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. “This crucial requirement … is impossible for man. But ‘with God all things are possible’” (CCC).