Alas, I know of a few men and women who turned bitter, disenchanted, depressed and unable to trust another human being for the rest of their life because their love was not reciprocated.
As we can clearly see from the first reading (Isaiah 5:1-7) and the gospel passage (Matthew 21: 33-43) that I just read to you, God himself laments this experience of unreciprocated love, of a broken heart, not once, not twice, but repeated times throughout history.
The analogy of the vineyard fails to hide God’s sadness and frustration: “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?” Isaiah 5:4
Since this parable was first addressed to the chief priests and the elders of the people (Matthew 21:33), I realize that God’s expectation of his priests and bishops is higher than his expectation of the people entrusted to their spiritual care.
We, in the ranks of priests/bishops, must be truly in love with Jesus and do our very best to make sure that all of you fall in love with and reciprocate Jesus’ love for you faithfully and firmly.
If we stop to consider the extent to which God the Father went to elicit a loving response from us, we will think twice, trice, before turning down his love entreaties.
“Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’” Matthew 21:37
One day, I was sitting on a bench at the YMCA in Royal Oak waiting for my turn to jump into the pool.
An older woman on the same bench struck an idle conversation with me.
However, once she learned that I was a priest she said: “I am a former Catholic. I left everything because I cannot believe that Jesus is God.”
Pressed by me to be more specific, she continued: “It is impossible; it is unthinkable; it makes no sense for God to care so much about us to become one like us.”
I wonder how many “believers,” how many “churchgoers,” deep down, live as if God’s love for them were “reasonably limited.”
My dear fellow disciples of Christ, not only does God care so much for us to become one like us, but he goes to the very ultimate limit of giving up his only Son to prove his love for us.
If a prince falls in love with a commoner, the tabloids would extol the blindness of true love and turn it into a rag to riches story, a glorious fairy tale.
The most famous book, the Bible, had to be written to tell the story of God the Father and Jesus his Son, falling in love with us.
As that love story unfolds, we must wonder why God is so determined to leave no stone unturned until we respond with love to his love entreaties.
Anyone, who has ever fallen in love and still loves someone special, knows exactly why God is so persistent.
There ain’t no mountain high enough Ain’t no valley low enough Ain’t no river wide enough to keep me from getting to you, baby. The popular song insists.
Paul, who writes to us today’s 2nd reading (Philippians 4:6-9), knows all about God falling in love with him and how God pursued him until he reciprocated that love.
It is not a coincidence that Paul is one in the ranks of priests/bishops to whom this parable of the tenants and the vineyard is first addressed.
Today, from Paul we find out something heartening and comforting: by responding positively to God’s love, we find our happiness and peace of mind.
We become anxiety free!
We begin to trust blindly the One who sacrificed his only Son to make us his.
Furthermore, if we reciprocate God’s love, we can also divert our energies and efforts away from the rat race of this world and from all the pressure that self-interest imposes on us.
That would eventually free us to focus, instead, on whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious (Philippians 4:8), so that our entire way of living, our lifestyle is radically transformed the way the life of a commoner married to a prince is transformed.
Thus I, one in the ranks of priests/bishops myself, find hope in the transformation that God’s love brought about in Paul.
The same Lord can do the same for me, if only I am docile and humble enough.
I wonder, though, if I will ever be able to tell you what Paul recommends today: “keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.” Philippians 4:9
At any rate, as we promise to pray for each other, to support each other, to find enough courage to reciprocate God’s love for us, we resolve also to do our very best to work with the Spirit of the Lord Jesus to bear the fruits that our divine Landowner expects of us as signs of our love for him.
And, in case someone forgot, the gifts of the Spirit are. …love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, and faithfulness, Galatians 5:22
This is how we reciprocate God’s love for us.