The Risk of Loving
27th Sunday in OT

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

To love is to take a risk. This is what God did when He created us in His image and likeness, that is, with intellect and free will which we can use for or against Him. As we know, shortly after their creation, Adam and Eve chose to use these faculties to disobey God and thus brought humankind down with them.

The same happened when God made Israel His Chosen People. In the Song of the Vineyard (Isa. 5:1-7), Isaiah tells of God's love story with His people. Having made them His vineyard, He dug it up, cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest grape vines. He built a wall around it to protect it from animals and a watch-tower to safeguard it from intruders. He then looked forward to a crop of good grapes which would be turned into excellent wine in the wine-press he built. But what did the vineyard yield? Only sour grapes which was good for nothing. Seeing all this, the owner of the vineyard said, "Now, I will let you know what I mean to do to my vineyard: Take away its wall, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled!" God turned the vineyard into a wasteland since it did not bear the expected harvest.

The same theme is taken up in The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mt. 21:33-43). Like God in Isaiah's Song, Matthew's landowner did the same to his vineyard. But instead of tending it himself, he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When harvest time came, he sent his servants to collect his due. But the tenants seized, beat and killed them. He sent more servants but they suffered the same fate. Finally, he sent his only son. When they saw him, they said to each other, "This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance." And the did.

Matthew used this Kingdom parable, addressed to the high priests and elders of the Jews, as a summary of salvation history. The landlord's servants stood for the succession of Old and New Testament prophets sent by God to Israel, only to see them treated with disdain and violence. The landowner's son was clearly Jesus, God's own Son. But that did not exempt Him from suffering the same fate. Obviously, the tenants in the parable -- the high priests and elders -- failed in their stewardship of God's people. In the end, God decided to take back the vineyard from them: "Therefore, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit." This new people, made up of Jews and Gentiles, is now the Church.

In both stories, we see God's love at work. Love, by its very nature, is free. And that is where its fragility lies. Even if God expects us to use our intellect and free will responsibly, namely, to respond in love to His offer of love through our service for Him and our neighbors, we can also use them against Him. Thus a good question to ask is: How have we used these faculties?

First, there are some among us who misuse them. This happens when we turn a helping hand into a hurting fist or a word of encouragement into a scathing remark. In short, instead of helping others, we do violence to them.

Then there are some among us who are good only when we are watched. Thus, we tell others, "Nobody will know," "Everybody is doing it," or "Just be careful that you will not be caught." When we act thus, we forget that God can see into the inner recesses of our hearts.

In both instances, the use of God's gifts does not bring about the expected harvest. For instead of being bearers of the Good News, we do the opposite.

Certainly, there is much more to our being Christians than just avoiding sins. We are asked to do good and be always concerned that we do more of it. This means taking a risk even if our goodness may be misunderstood or abused. But this should not stop us from doing good if only to help others become better persons, better sons and daughters of God.

A story is told of a husband who was very loving, devoted and faithful to his wife. But he had no job and his wife was the family's only breadwinner. This situation affected her so much that she turned cold towards him. When the husband noticed this, he asked her, "What's the matter? I have not done anything to you." The wife responded, "That is precisely the problem: you have not done anything to me. You say you love me yet you do not help me earn for the family."

As Christians we cannot stand before God and say, "What's the matter? I have not done anything to You." Christianity is not a question of what we have not done but how much we have done and are doing in sharing the gifts we have received -- our talents, time and treasures -- with others, specially the less fortunate. In short, we should always be ready to take the risk of loving others even if in doing so we may be ridiculed for going against the tide.