We process a Gospel Story in the setting of what is going on in our life at the time we hear or read it. At times there is both a big picture and a small picture — what is going on around us in the country, the church, etc; what is going on in our personal day to day life. These days something that is going in in the church is the Synod, as Pope Francis, solidly believing that the Spirit is leading the church to be a church that listens to everybody, is trying to lead the church to be more open to the Spirit in life. In the small picture, I might try to listen to the Gospel and be open to the Spirit in my own life. It’s worth remembering that there never is just one way for everybody always to understand a Gospel Story (the Story says what it has always said) since it deals with infinite truth happening in each of our lives, so we can easily have our own understanding of what it says to us. There can be many “correct” interpretations. We need to be mindful of our tradition’s history so we can live the deposit of faith in all its richness and depth.
Among other things the vine is a symbol of life. Might the Parable of the Vineyard be talking to me about God creating life and my role in it happening. Might the tenants refer to me wanting to take control of life and make it easier and more comfortable for myself. I would control it all, and reject any one who doesn’t fit with my expectations.
The Story talks about the owner who “planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower”. I begin with a life that comes from God and my parents, in general pretty much laid out. Then gradually I am given the opportunity to begin a life long journey of living, choosing, growing. Perhaps an analogy described in the Story as the vineyard being given to tenants, which maybe refer to me. I go through my life trying to keep it safe and comfortable. I have all the answers I need. Then I start to have new questions. In the Story the landowner sends his servants to collect what his due. Might they be symbols of the various experiences I’m having I my life? There are no unaskable questions or unthinkable thoughts. Questioning, wondering, and doubting are how the Spirit helps us grow.
In the light of the Synod and it’s emphasis on listening, I need to be open to the Spirit in the folks in my life. I also need to be careful that I don’t reflect the tenants in how they treated the landowners servants. Then comes the biggie: the landowner sends his Son into my vineyard, often through the people in my life. How do I treat him in them? Am I short?Am I so dug in and self protective that I refuse even to listen? Do I reject anyone who doesn’t agree with my world view? Do I refuse to be challenged?
The Gospel and its values do not change, but how we understand them does develop, simply because our culture and its particulars are constantly changing and developing. The history of theology shows this. As Francis says, today’s questions need today’s answers, yesterday’s answers don’t speak to today’s challenges. Am I willing to be open and learn, to trust the Spirit and hear God speaking? Jesus said, “I am with you always”, and “I will send the Spirit who will remind you of all that I taught you”. This is so important for us. Am I willing to be open to the Spirit in my everyday life in? Can I really trust Her? Can I accept that often I have no idea how I am being called to live my life, and certainly even less an idea how others are being called to live their life? I don’t know their journey or story, and if I listen to them I can learn.
When Jesus says, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”, might he be alerting me that perhaps I’m not as open to the Spirit as I think I am? Might he be talking about who I am rejecting so I can keep my life comfortable and safe for me. Am I even remotely willing to hear others don’t think as I do or want them to, without feeling threatened? Who am I refusing to listen to? Why don’t I want to listen to them? Am I afraid of what I might hear? Am I bothered that they don’t think as I want them to so my attitude can be safe and comfortable? Are they not fitting in with my standards that I might not know I have? Accepting others does not mean always agreeing with them. It does entail trying to be open to the Spirit to see the wisdom each in their own way brings to me on my journey? What is the Spirit saying to me here? Francis wants the church to be open and welcoming, not closed and excluding. Might this apply to me too? Can I accept that I do not have answers, only questions, and go where this questioning takes me? Am I willing to lay aside my need for control and be willing to be surprised at the amazingness of the Spirit? Can I really accept that my way of thinking and seeing is not the only one for everybody, and be ok with that, that there is one God and many ways to this God? Is my life all about me? Do I really have room for the Spirit, or do I just talk about it?
What can be startling is the notion of God as a verb, not just a name. Everything we say about God tells us more about ourselves than about God. None of our concepts or ideas can describe the reality of what we call God, the dynamic oneness that is happening in us and all around us throughout the cosmos. God isn’t done telling us who God is.
The God who is constantly creating the cosmos is creating and loving each of us just as we are. Where God places no limitations, many of us feel the need to do so to make ourselves feel safe and secure, keeping out rather than welcoming, and this says more about us than about God. “The kingdom of God is among us”, does this really mean anything to me, or is it just a nice idea? I risk a lot when I try to analyze God to fit in with my concepts and ideas, which, being finite, can in no way ever grasp the reality of God who is beyond anything I can come up with. We don’t try to understand in order to believe, we believe in order to understand. God doesn’t follow my logic. Just sayin . . .