Savoring God’s Infinite Patience
June 1, 2020
Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church
Jesus began to speak to the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and left on a journey. At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another servant. And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully. He sent yet another whom they killed. So, too, many others; some they beat, others they killed. He had one other to send, a beloved son. He sent him to them last of all, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come, put the tenan ts to death, and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture passage:
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?” They were seeking to arrest him, but they feared the crowd, for they realized that he had addressed the parable to them. So they left him and went away.
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to take this time to open my mind and my heart to whatever it is you want to say to me today. I believe in your love for me, even though I don’t always feel it. I hope in the power of your grace to continue purifying and strengthening me in my journey through life. And I thank you for all the good gifts you have given me throughout my life, and especially in these last twenty-four hours. Lord, “lead me in the path of your commandments, for that is my delight” (Psalms 119:35).
1. Jesus Is Patient with Us: God’s infinite patience comes across in this parable in three different ways. First, Jesus continually tries to make his enemies understand who he really is. He speaks this parable to the “chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.” These were religious leaders in Israel, the ones who would eventually condemn Jesus and have him crucified. Jesus hasn’t given up on them. They haven’t accepted his plain teaching, so he changes gears by using a parable to open their eyes: he is the Son of the parable, and in rejecting him, his enemies are separating themselves from their proper relationship with God, just as the tenants in the parable did with the owner of the vineyard. Parables are an extra effort on Christ’s part to explain things to people who have blind spots. Jesus uses parables all the time, because he knows we all have blind spots. He wants us to see and embrace the truth, and he never stops tryi ng to help us do that.
2. God the Father Is Patient with Us: Second, the parable itself illustrates God’s determined patience in the behavior of the vineyard’s owner. After sending three different servants to collect the normal price owed by the tenants, and after all three of them were unjustly abused, he sends “many others,” who are also abused. And he still doesn’t give up. He then sends his very own son. Just so, throughout the history of salvation, God has sent us many messengers–prophets, priests, and kings–and in the fullness of time, he even sent us his own Son. There is simply no limit to God’s mercy, goodness, and patience. No matter how many times we may turn our backs to God or reject his approaches, or abuse his gifts, he will never give up on us. We matter too much to him.
3. God’s Infinite Patience Is Matched by His Infinite Generosity: Third, the vineyard owner in the parable provides all the necessary material for his tenants to have a successful harvest, and then goes away and gives them plenty of time and space to do their work. The parable points out that the owner sent the first servant to collect the tenant’s payment “at the proper time.” God is not unreasonable. He has given us all that we are and all that we have: our lives, our talents, the earth, our cultural heritage, our faith, the Church, the Gospel. He has provided us with a fully equipped vineyard, and he respects our freedom as we try to make it produce the fruits of wisdom, justice, and happiness that our lives are created for. He does not rush us. He does not force us. He trusts us and gives us unlimited chances (always supported by his grace and providence) to develop all our gifts in harmony with the true purpose of our lives—livin g in communion with God. Only those who stubbornly persevere in selfishness and sin in spite of God’s overflowing generosity and patience will be excluded from his Kingdom. God himself wants all of us to succeed in what matters most: the journey of growing in our friendship with him.
Conversing with Christ: Sometimes, Lord, I think I am less patient with myself than you are with me. You never give up on me, but I often give up on myself. You never tire of reaching out to me, but at times I get frustrated and close myself off from receiving what you want to give. Help me, Lord, to be like Mary, your mother and the mother of the Church, who was always ready and eager to receive whatever you wanted to give, and to give whatever you asked.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pay special attention to feelings of frustration, anger, and discouragement. When I feel those things, I will pause and call to mind your infinite patience. Then I will ask you to show me how to be more like you in the way I deal with whatever is causing those feelings.
For Further Reflection: St. John Henry Newman’s unforgettable prayer for patience and trust: Lead, Kindly Light (http://www.newmanreader.org/works/verses/verse90.html).