I love today’s second reading from Paul, he gives us a lot to think about when he says:
Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
This is great advice from Paul especially in these tumultuous times… “Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely” - makes me think about beauty.
There is so much beauty in the world, and it seems we recognize that most especially in nature, in its immensity and grandeur, and when gazed upon with an eye of beauty it raises us body and soul to see the immensity and grandeur of God.
We even hear songs about it, America the Beautiful… [sung] America, America, God shed His grace on thee...
Our country is so beautiful, and it is hard to watch it be destroyed. The other night I caught a little bit of the news which showed a vineyard in California being destroyed by one of the wildfires, and it was so hard to watch and I could not help but feel sad for the owners of the vineyard.
I’ve never been to wine country in California but there was still a sadness that came over me, just knowing how much work goes into a vineyard, how many years it takes to prepare it and cultivate it and watch it grow, then to watch it all go up in smoke, totally ruined, it would be a painful sight to see, especially if it was you who had done all of the work.
In our other readings today, this is the image that is given to us, a vineyard. The vineyard stands for the people of Israel. The nation of Israel was God’s chosen people.
In the first reading, God worked so hard to build up His chosen people, but it didn’t turn out like He had hoped. The vineyard probably did look beautiful from the outside, but the people on the inside were wild, and the grapes that this vineyard produced were bad.
And Jesus quotes this Old Testament passage and talks about the work God has put into the vineyard, but He goes on to show how it is actually the people in charge of running the vineyard that were the real problem.
So, Jesus asks the Chief Priests and Elders who were in charge of Israel, His vineyard on Earth, and He asks them, what they would do to these bad tenants? And they condemn themselves with their words.
This self-condemnation is something that I often think about. Sometimes people will ask me, “How could an all-good God send anyone to Hell?”
And my answer is simple, “God doesn’t send anyone to Hell. People send themselves to Hell. They condemn themselves when they get to the pearly gates because they realize they have lived a life apart from God.
They mistreated the servants of God and denied Him to the bitter end, and now, being face to face with the Truth, they choose to go Hell, because they couldn’t stand to be with the Truth, with the God they denied for all eternity, to go to heaven would actually be more painful!
God in His infinite mercy actually provides a place apart from Him, a Hell if you will, which is really just a separation from God because God knows they wouldn’t be able to handle the pain of knowing how bad they screwed up on Earth by denying God in their life. God doesn’t send anyone to Hell, they willingly go themselves.”
Does that make sense? God in His love and mercy allows people to freely choose to go to Hell because they condemn themselves…
God sent many priests and prophets to them to try to cultivate that vine, to show them His love, but they refused to change their minds, they produced bad fruit and they refused a relationship with God.
Spending all of eternity with that knowledge that they rejected the love of God would be worse if it was spent with God in heaven, so they willingly choose Hell.
So back to this parable, the tenants have a share in the vineyard, but that isn’t enough for them, they are greedy and selfish, and they want everything, they want the whole inheritance.
The chief priests and elders recognize that about the tenants in the parable, so when Jesus puts the question to them about what to do with the tenants?
They answered him by condemning those wretched tenants, but actually they condemned themselves, they are the tenants of Israel and almost immediately they realized that Jesus was in fact talking about them, yet even knowing their waywardness, they refused to change.
They refused to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and change their ways, preferring to hold on to their authority to the bitter end, taking advantage of the people and just generally being selfish, not truly caring for the people that God has put them in charge of here on earth.
Jesus makes it clear that, because of their selfish actions, that God will take their authority away from them, put them to death, and give their authority to someone else who will care for the sheep.
Now, I am not scared of many things, but I’ll tell you one thing I am scared of is condemning myself at the end of my earthly life for the ways I haven’t done enough to take care of the sheep who were put in my care, where I failed to give an example of God’s love to people or where I failed to speak truth about God’s standards. That scares me.
I see God’s standards, at the end of that first reading, the prophet said, the Lord “looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!”
And I look around in the world, what is happening here in America, and the biggest lack of justice, the biggest amount of bloodshed I can see is the deaths of innocent babies through abortion.
For perspective, consider this, in America there has only been 11 days where more people died from Covid-19 than they did from Abortions... 11 days in 6 months…
We are all so worried about Covid-19, shouldn’t we have even more worry for these innocent babies that die at an even higher rate?
October is Right to Life month, so it is appropriate to stop to think how we can help. We need to support the mothers. We need to get the laws changed so abortion isn’t a choice, and adoption and supportive resources are more accessible. We need to stand for all life, from conception to natural death.
Life is beautiful, and in many ways it’s a proof of the existence of God. I’ve had friends tell me that they didn’t believe in God until they saw that little miracle of a beautiful baby.
Our country is beautiful too, a God fearing nation founded on Christian principles, and for many years God has blessed us.
But what I fear is not upholding God’s standards, allowing the injustice that causes so much bloodshed and outcry, and I wonder if after allowing over 60 million babies to be sacrificed to the god of convenience here in America, will our God continue to bless our nation? Or will He allow this vineyard to be destroyed also?
Now is the time to turn to Him to ask for forgiveness for our country, to intercede in prayer, but also to do what we can, whatever we can, to save lives, especially innocent not yet born lives.
May God bless us as we try to recover our truly pro-life, God fearing society, starting with our own God fearing, pro-life hearts.
[Sung] America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!