Sunday, October 5, 2014

the wicked tenants

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

In Greek mythology there was a princess of Troy called Cassandra. Cassandra was granted the ability to see the future by the god Apollo in exchange for the promise that she would sleep with him. But once she had the power, she reneged on her end of the bargain; Apollo's revenge was not to take back his gift, but to add another, this one a curse. She would indeed be able to foretell the future; but no one would believe her. So Cassandra foresees that Paris will bring Helen to Troy, that her husband will follow with a great army to get her back, that her city will be destroyed as a result, her family killed, her people enslaved; and warn everyone as she will, no one believes her. The only time she is believed is when she recognises Paris as a long lost brother, which causes him to be restored to the royal family, and allows him to become the person who brings all this trouble upon Troy. For the most part they think her mad and lock her away, where the gift of knowing the future and the curse of being able to do nothing to stop finally causes her to actually lose her mind.

I am sometimes reminded of Cassandra when I think of the fate of the prophets in the Bible. They too uttered their warnings; they too were seldom believed; they too suffered for speaking the truth.
Jesus reminds the religious leaders of the way prophets had been treated in our Gospel reading today when he tells them the parable of the WickedTenants. I should begin by noting that the word 'tenant' is a very poor translation of the Greek here – the word used is georgois which means farmer or agricultural worker. Also, perhaps leasing is not the best way to view the business arrangement here; the landowner has first done most of the work; then he leaves his vineyard in the care of these workers in return for a share of the produce; so perhaps it would be better to think of it as the landowner as entrusting his vineyard to these workers. That I think, would fit in better with the meaning of the parable, in which the Landowner is God, the vineyard is his people, the tenants are those religious leaders who lead his people astray, and the Son is Christ himself. In the parable Jesus is therefore making a prophesy concerning his own fate, that he will suffer and die at the hands of these men, but he is also warning them of their own fate, that by their actions they risk excluding themselves from the kingdom of God.

But it is not good for us to be smug; to look at these Pharisees of old and think how foolish they were to reject Christ and how clever we are because we indeed know he is the Son of God. For Christ himself warns us that not everyone who calls him 'Lord, lord,' will enter into his Kingdom. And consider what St Paul says in the Epistle today concerning his own salvation: 'I do not consider that I have made it my own;but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.' If the Apostle to the Gentiles did not consider his place in heaven something already assured by virtue of his faith and the great service he had done in bringing many souls to Christ, but rather something that he had to work towards always, how much more so must we?

One of the ways, of course, in which the Apostle 'pressed on towards the goal' was through the study of Sacred Scripture and the keeping of God's Holy Law as it is set out therein. We get a good summary of that law in today's lesson from Old Testament where we read the Decalogue or Ten Commandments. And it is important to remember that it is just a summary – there is much more revealed concerning the moral law elsewhere in both the Old Testament and the New. This makes both the reading of Sacred Scripture and good Spiritual writers so very important for us to grow in our spiritual life and to get daily nearer to the prize of which St Paul speaks.

Time is a precious commodity and finding the time for prayer and Scripture reading and study is not easy. But consider ways you might find time: for example, if you spend hours in the car with the radio on, might not you use those hours listing to a podcast of a spiritual nature or listening to an audio Bible? If you spend a great deal of time online, a lot of it surfing the net somewhat aimlessly, could you not instead visit sights dedicated to religious knowledge? If you spend time in the evening reading books or magazines or watching television, might not some of that time be instead used for prayer, alone or with the family, or in some way devoted to trying to grow in holiness? Finding the time may be difficult, but consider the prize, as St Paul did, and remember how he, holy as he was, pressed on towards it ceaselessly all his days.

Things did not go well for those who refused to listen to Cassandra. But they had no choice, for that was the curse that she lived under. We have a choice. We can choose to listen to the words of Christ, his apostles, his prophets and journey every nearer the prize … or we can choose not to and face the consequences of that choice. The decision is yours. I pray that, with God's help, you will chose wisely. Amen

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