Benedictine University and’s Mark Kurowski reflects on how privilege begets responsibility.  What does that mean to Christians?  How should we live out our responsibility?  Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Please read Matthew 21:33-46.


{mp3}2011 10 02 A 58 27 Ord{/mp3}

For Benedictine University and, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 10/2/2011The 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Please pause this audio and read the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 21, verses 33-46.
To be chosen is to have the privilege of responsibility.
Whenever we read about the apostles there is this mystique about them.  Man, who wouldn’t have wanted to be an apostle,.  If any of us could have been Peter, would we want to pass up the chance?  Imagine being able to walk with Jesus.  Have you ever heard of an old protestant hymn called “Tell me the Stories of Jesus”?  It starts, “Tell me the stories of Jesus.  I want to hear, things I would ask him to tell me, if he were here.  Tales by the wayside…etc.”  There is a romantic notion about being chosen to do the work of the Lord.
Imagine being James and John, the sons of Zebedee.  They were mending nets when Jesus called them to “come!”  Or, imagine Isaiah, Jeremiah, Deborah or Abraham.  All of these people were called to go where the Lord sent them.  They lead lives of seeming adventure and intrigue.
Amidst the adventure and intrigue we need to remember that Abraham had to go away from all of his family to a land that he had never seen.  Jeremiah had to tell Judah which did not want to hear that they would be overrun by Nebuchadnezzar.  Isaiah had to tell Ahaz that Judah would be overrun by the King of Assyria.  Acts 15 shows us that James had to lead a church which was fighting over whether Gentiles should come in.  Peter was hung upside down on a crucifix for preaching the Gospel in Rome.
Throughout history, there have been people, and peoples, called to be holy as the heavenly Father is holy as a witness to the fact that there is a Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  This calling is chosen-ness.  To be a chosen people is to live a life that testifies to the holiness and goodness of God.  Yes, being chosen comes with some perks.  The most significant is that you know that you are loved by God.  Like a pitcher who is not throwing strikes, being chosen is only as good as our ability and commitment to do what we are asked to do, being chosen to pitch does not mean that we will not be “relieved” if we walk in the winning run with the bases loaded.  If you have the lad in a play but cannot remember your lines, the understudy becomes a star.  If you.. well, you get the idea.  Being chosen is, in Israel’s sense, only as good as the keeping of the covenant which God has given them.
Let’s think about it though.  If we are baptized, that is, if we have been made part of the new covenant in Jesus’ blood in baptism, but if we were to live like people who did not know God, then what good does our life do for baptism?  What good are we to the promises of God if our lives are not testimonies of his holiness and goodness?  Or, if we do not receive with faith the blessings of Jesus who is the body and the blood, then what good is it to “taste and see” that the Lord is good?  If our actions testify that the Lord’s Supper is just bread and just wine, if our lives do not testify that this is the ordinary way that God gives us himself to make us a more holy people, then what good is our testimony?
I have a friend who owns some houses that she rents.  She used to ask her sons to come and work on the houses for her when they needed repair.  I say used to because she doesn’t do that anymore.  She stopped asking her sons to do it because they knew she would pay them even if they did a sloppy job, so they thought and so they did.  Little did they know that there would come a time when she would no longer accept a sloppy job.  She wanted someone who did not see being chosen for the job as a privilege, but as an important responsibility.
God does not choose people so that they can think they deserve to receive his blessings.  He chooses them so that they will go and tell the nations that God is good.  He chooses them so that they will go and tell the nations that God loves them.  He chooses them so that they will go and tell the nations that God wants them to make straight the crooked roads and highways of injustice. God wants all of us to go and do the good he had intended us to do.
It is similar to the Pharisees and chief priests continual questioning of Jesus’ authority in this long section of Matthew.  They knew Jesus was speaking of them when he told this parable.  It was not damaging that they were the workers of the vineyard, but it was damaging that they put themselves in conflict with God over the spoils of creation.  Instead of sharing the fruits of knowing we are living in God’s kingdom, they horded it as a special position in the kingdom which deserved God’s blessing.  The problem is not that the Jews thought they could earn their salvation through observance of the law, but that they thought that salvation was a foregone conclusion.  They thought that the privilege of being the chosen people was salvation; they were the saved people of God and would always be saved.
In creation, God gave his people all the necessary equipment to produce fruit for him.  They, instead, began to assume their position as a privilege.  They began to do what they wanted with God’s goods.  When he sent his prophets to collect the fruits of devotion, they were chased, stoned, hated and reviled.  He sent to his people again more prophets with the same result.  Then he sent his son to gather the fruits of his vineyard, but the very people he had chosen to “till his earth and keep it” were the ones who participated with the Roman Gentiles in having him killed.
It was just at that moment of blessed assurance salvation is mine that God went and took the vineyard away from that one nation and gave the responsibility of tending the vineyard to the nations.  He hired tenant farmers, both Jew and Gentile, who would work for his Son.
This passage is a sober one.  I have not been able to look upon it without examining my own life.  I want to live the holy life as a love offering to our God.  I want to be holy for him as a testimony to people everywhere that God is good.  I know that I received many blessings when I ought to have received a curse.  That is the joy of living this chosen life; I receive a blessing though I do not deserve it.
We as Christians know the life we’ve been given to live is a great privilege, but it is also a responsibility.  As I have examined myself over the last week, I invite everyone to join me in an examination of conscience as an act of devotion to God.  I urge all of us to attend the sacrament of Reconciliation and reaffirm your commitment to the devoted life.  What can we do to tend the vineyard even more faithfully?  Are we doing enough?  Are we taking our salvation for granted?  Are we living the life of the holy people of God?  This passage could cause us to stop what we are doing and ask the Lord if we are being faithful to the calling.  It should cause us to examine ourselves: are we working in the vineyard or just eating its fruit? Amen?  Amen.
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