Perhaps last week as we undertook a self-evaluation of our tenancy of the Lord’s vineyard, we may have ended up feeling a little guilty – with a tinge of despair? Well, this Sunday we should feel far more positive and hopeful. Not only do we all fail to measure-up to the very best of standards but we should never forget that watchtower which stands in the very centre of our lives.

A regular self-evaluation is a good thing but permanent, guilt-ridden introspection is both bad and sterile. In

TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [PHILIPPIANS 4: 12 – 14. 19 – 20] Saint Paul gives us a sure foundation – I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.

WHY

and HOW? The watchtower …. and the benefits involved are magnificently spelt out in TODAY’S PSALM [23 or 22].

The Lord is my shepherd … he gives me repose … leads me … he revives … (he is) with me … gives me comfort … goodness and mercy follow me … for length of days unending.”

WHAT A GREAT WATCHTOWER THE LORD IS ….. there in the middle of my life and living.

The arrival of this awesome tower, in the person of Jesus Christ, is splendidly outlined in THE OLD TESTAMENT READING [25: 6 – 10a]. He will destroy the covering that is cast … the veil that is spread … will wipe away tears … and reproach.

I do not believe that constant reproach is a sign of a healthy Christian discipleship

. We can become so obsessed with reproach and guilt that we miss the opportunities the Lord is constantly offering us. These opportunities Isaiah describes in the words “behold this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us … let us be glad and rejoice … for the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.” In addition, Paul in the New Testament extract tells us that “I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” Yes, as already mentioned, we are sometimes abased but we can also abound back again because of him who strengthens me , or – as the Psalm tells us – “he guides me along the right path, for the sake of his name ..” CONSTANT REPROACHES AND GUILT ARE THE WRONG PATHS. The Lord’s objective is always to wipe away tears.

We have an urgent need to read carefully

THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 22: 1 – 14].

Here we really must accept that we have been, and are constantly being, invited

. It is an invitation made each and every day of our lives. It follows, then, that there exists a need for us to respond each and every day. Our reply is not to be seen as once made and that is that. Our gospel reading makes it very clear that we are capable of very bad manners. Some people (the clergy included!) are notoriously bad at replying to invitations and then, when prodded, seem to take offence …. “of course I will be there – would not miss it for anything!” Really!? How is the host or hostess supposed to KNOW this?! We can, at times, be very flippant with the Lord. The Gospel tells us that they made light of it and went off, one to his farm, another to his business ….

I must ask myself whether I have developed a discipleship which I take seriously? Is my faith, in reality, merely a side-issue in my life and living as I go off to my farm or business? Last week’s parable about the tenants in the vineyard brings out the fruit-bearing aspect. One contemporary scripture scholar observes that

this week what is emphasised is the joy of being invited as well as the need to respond to God’s call.” The same author continues – “God’s invitation is to all but only those who respond will become the chosen.” We have to BECOME the chosen and the fact that we happen to be Christian-Catholics does not exempt us from a daily response and becoming. Our responseis in doing the will of the Father. {Matthew 7:21}

Very often I find myself concerned that there are times when I regard my own ‘practice’ of faith and priesthood as an intrusion into my private life and convenience. There is legitimate pleasure in watching the TV relay of a Grand Slam tennis final but, alas, I must drag myself off, very reluctantly, to fulfill a parish ‘supply’ commitment?! How much joy will there be in my leading of the celebration?

All of this is also

“Matthew’s warning to the church. The church is held together neither by family ties nor by an external structure, but by the active, personal and continual response to God’s word. The response is the work of a lifetime. …. The wedding robe is a symbol of this response, that is of a life lived in conformity with God’s word as it is revealed in Christ. ….. Mere membership of the church is not enough.”

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MATTHEW: Sage theologian: WILFRID J HARRINGTON, OP: The Columba Press. Page 84}