So I was at Alpha the other night. If you haven’t heard of Alpha yet…it’s really awesome. Basically it’s a weekly gathering where you come together for a free dinner, a thought-provoking video that gets you to ask the big questions about life and faith, and then you have some time for open-ended discussion about your honest thoughts and reactions to the video. It’s a chance to invite nonbelievers, non-Catholic Christians, and life-long Catholics alike to come together to talk about what matters the most.
I highly recommend you get involved and maybe even invite a friend!
In the video this week, there was a testimony from a young man who said that when he was growing up, he wasn’t very well-behaved. In fact, he said he would regularly steal stuff, and he got better and better at not getting caught. He started out small, but gradually began to risk stealing bigger and bigger things. Eventually, he managed to steal money from his own parents’ bank account…But they found out.
When his parents finally approached him about it, the boy — totally terrified and embarrassed — ran to his room… He tore everything up. He pushed his bed and his dresser and all his stuff up against his bedroom door as a kind of impenetrable barricade, thinking all the while through his tears: “I’m absolute rubbish. I’m just a BAD kid.” Shame and self-hatred consumed him.
He then heard a gentle knock at the door. And from the other side, his dad said this: “I need you to know that me and your mom love you. We’re just confused. Because we don’t know what we haven’t done for you.”
This story immediately reminded me of this weekend’s First Reading, as well as our Gospel parable — which are practically the same exact story, word-for-word.
“My friend had a vineyard …” the first reading from the prophet Isaiah begins. “He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes. Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?”
It’s as if God is saying to us: “Look… I need you to know that I do love you. I love you unconditionally… But I’m confused… because I don’t know what I haven’t already done for you.”
After all, He created this beautiful vineyard in which we live — He created this entire world purely out of His sheer goodness and Love! He made it and saw that it was good! Very good!!!
Then when humanity fell into sin and broke that beautiful world He had made, even THAT didn’t halt His generosity — He immediately set about to right the wrong, to heal the wound, to redeem us and save us! He established covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David… He promised blessing after blessing. He delivered the people out of slavery in Egypt. He gave them a Kingdom and swore an oath it would never end. When the people continued to rebel again and again, the Lord didn’t quit — He sent prophet after prophet to the people of Israel — warning them and calling them to return to Him!
This is exactly what Jesus is referring to in his parable, when he says that the landowner repeatedly sends servant after servant into his vineyard…but the tenants repeatedly rise up in rebellion — “one servant they beat, another they killed, a third they stoned.” Countless more servants are sent into the master’s vineyard, only to be treated in the same exact way.
Until last of of all — at the climax of all history — God decides to send His Son. His only Son. “They will respect My Son,” the Father says.
But as we all know… we did not respect His Son!
We crucified Him!
“He came to His own, and His own received Him not!”
“This is the heir!” we said. “Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance!!!”
Now, perhaps one might think that this final betrayal would have broken the camel’s back. Maybe THIS was the last straw…?
But it wasn’t!
Because after we killed the beloved Son, God then raised Him back to life! The Resurrection is a historical fact… It’s living proof that God has done absolutely everything necessary for us to be saved!!!!
What more could He have possibly done for us?
Well… there’s even more. He gave us a Church to be a part of. And He put a protective hedge around this Church… guaranteeing that the Gates of Hell would never prevail against it! Jesus Himself would be Head of this Church forever! He promised that the pope, in union with all the bishops — the successors to the apostles — would never officially teach heresy or falsehood EVER!!! It doesn’t matter what the mainstream media says the Synod is going to say or do or change…
I know God will protect His Church!
But there’s even more that God does for us — Through this same Church, He gives us His own Body and Blood to eat and drink! He forgives our sins every time we go to confession. He heals us with oil. He speaks to us through the Scriptures. He sends saint after saint in every period of history to show us it’s actually possible to be holy.
When we look at ALL of that…when we see this mountain of evidence of what the Lord has gone out of His way to accomplish for us, we gotta ask: “What has He not done??? What will He not do???”
Because guess what? He’s still not finished…
In our second reading today, St. Paul says this: “Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”
This is such a beautiful verse, isn’t it?
Have NO ANXIETY.
This seems easier said than done… But the Lord offers us even this… to be absolutely free of all worry.
Pause and consider that for a moment:
What if God really did want to set you free from EVERYTHING you’re currently anxious and bothered about? Not by simply eliminating pain or deleting suffering or just fixing difficult situations… but by helping you to enter into it all with faith?
What if the Lord really could give you a deep interior freedom — a peace of soul and mind that surpasses all understanding — What if He really could teach you to surrender, and trust Him totally and completely?
Anxiety is so often a sign that somewhere in our heart — we still don’t believe that God is going to show up. That He’s not going to provide what we need. That He won’t work all things for good.
I listen to a lot of people’s worries and anxieties on a day to day basis —
Anxiety about kids and grandkids no longer going to church.
Anxiety about the direction the Church is going in.
Anxiety about the condition of our country and our world.
Anxiety about tough family dynamics… about marriage struggles…
Anxiety about health issues… from broken bones to stage 4 cancer.
Anxiety about personal sin… committing the same acts over and over without any apparent hope for freedom.
St. Paul exhorts you… He exhorts me: “Have no anxiety at all!”
Look at everything God has already done for you and me both! What more does He need to do to prove His faithfulness? — He is working in every circumstance, every sorrow, every sickness, every failure, every worry you are going through… He’s with you. He’s close. He always has been.
Do you seriously think He will abandon us now?
No way. I don’t believe it. And neither should you.
And so “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving… we make our requests known to God.”
Ask Him for whatever it is you need!!! He wants you to ask!!! He’s NOT cheap. He’s NOT stingy… He’s a good Father who gives good gifts to His children!!! Go to Him in prayer and thanksgiving:
Father, I need help.
Father, I ask for hope.
Father, I want my kids, my grandkids to receive the gift of faith.
Father, I desire guidance with my vocation.
Father, I want to be a priest.
Father, lead me into a holy relationship.
Father, heal me!
Father, strengthen me!
In fact — right now: In the silence of your heart, I’d like each of us to very deliberately and clearly ask our Father in heaven for something true, honorable, pure, and good… Go ahead!
All we gotta do is ask. God is not bothered by our requests.
That’s what that young man who stole money from his parents apparently failed to realize — All he had to do was ask, and he would receive.
Instead — he resorted to stealing, hiding, sneaking, and grabbing!
It’s what those tenants in the parable failed to realize as well — They thought they needed to kill the landowner’s son to get at the inheritance…but in reality, it was always the plan to include them and share EVERYTHING with them!
Why do we keep falling into the trap of thinking God is holding out on us? That we need to scrounge and scrape and grasp if we’re ever going to get what we want or need?
Why do we live out of this scarcity mindset?
ALL GOD WANTS TO DO is share the ABUNDANCE of the Son’s Inheritance with all of us! Remember Jesus’ words from elsewhere in the gospels: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
It is the Father’s good PLEASURE to give us the inheritance. It is the Father’s good PLEASURE to repeatedly prove His love to us over and over and over again. — Have no anxiety at all!