On the Householder and His Vineyard.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Householder and His Vineyard.
Behold our Lord, subsequently to His entry into Jerusalem, standing erect in the temple, uttering those wonderful, weighty and impressive truths whereby He designed once more before His death to dispel the spiritual darkness of the Jews. He spoke in vain. Those deluded men would not be enlightened; their one absorbing thought was how they might compass the death of Him who was even then dispensing to them the Word of Life. And it was at that very time that the Lord, standing in His divine majesty before the Pharisees who were thinking to put Him to death, related the well-known parable of the householder and his vineyard, which contained a sentence of condemnation for His hearers. Imagine that you see the Redeemer, His eye that of an omniscient Judge fixed on the obdurate Jews, whilst He narrates the parable on which we propose to meditate to-day.
1st. Consider the attentive solicitude of the householder in regard to his vineyard. Our Lord says: “There was a man, an householder, who planted a vineyard and made a hedge round about it, and dug in it a press, and built a tower; and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a strange country.” (St. Matt. xxi. 33.) The householder is God: “the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel” (Is. v. 7), it is the synagogue. With what loving care the divine Householder watched over this vineyard! The hedge that He made round about it was the protection and defence wherewith He guarded Israel from all the assaults of its enemies. He dug a winepress in the vine yard, the ten commandments graven by His own finger on two tables of stone, so that beneath their pressure, under the yoke of the law, the delicious juice might be pressed out, charity to God and to one’s neighbor might be evoked from the hearts of the children of Israel, who were the grapes of that vineyard. The strong tower represents the good providence of God, which, as from a watchtower, watched over His chosen people. Finally He let the vineyard out to husbandmen, to the priests, the ancients, the judges of the Jews, who were to cultivate the vineyard of the Lord, to till it with their salutary teaching, to plant it with virtues, to preserve it from being laid waste. How beneficent were the designs of the Most High in regard to His people! Marvel at and admire the loving kindness of the Householder; but whilst you think of the Israelites as the object of His care and providence, do not forget yourself. You are yourself a vineyard of the Lord, so is your Community, your convent; and if you consider this point you will see that in every particular all that the Lord did for Israel, He has also done for you individually. Reflect upon this truth, reflect upon it with feelings of gratitude and contrition.
2d. Consider the outrageous ingratitude of the husband men. The Evangelist continues: “When the time of the fruits drew nigh, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits thereof. And the husbandmen, laying hands on his servants, beat one and killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants more than the former, and they did to them in like manner. And last of all he sent to them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But the husbandmen seeing the son, said among themselves: This is the heir, come let us kill him and we shall have his inheritance. And taking him, they cast him forth out of the vineyard and killed him.” (v. 34-39.) In this passage we have the whole sad story of the people of Israel. God had every reason, every right to expect fruits from so highly cultivated a vineyard: the fruits of virtue and of good works. But when He sent out His servants the prophets, they were persecuted, beaten or put to death. And when at last His own Son came, the Son for whom the Father thought they would surely feel reverence, their behavior was not one whit better. You have already heard how the husbandmen deliberated amongst themselves. “This is the heir, the heir of the respect due to us, the heir of the authority that belongs to us, for all the world is gone after him; come, let us kill him.” Try to fathom the depth of the wickedness and ingratitude of the Jews, and when you have seen how with each fresh degree of impiety God’s mercy appeared in greater measure, and how with each fresh degree of mercy the impiety of the Jews was heightened, strike upon your breast with compunction of heart, and acknowledge that you are not free from the guilt of those husbandmen. How often when the Lord, in order to gather the fruits of His vineyard, has inspired you with good thoughts, with holy desires, when He has spoken to you through the medium of a book, a sermon, the voice of your Superior, you have shown no respect for these servants of the Lord, you have “cast them forth” out of your heart. Nay more, when the Son Himself came to you in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, you have not reverenced Him as you ought, but have committed the heinous offence of which the husbandmen were guilty. Awaken within yourself heartfelt contrition, make fresh resolutions for the future, and then proceed to consider the third point.
3d. The chastisement which overtook the husbandmen. “When therefore the lord of the vineyard shall come, what will he do to those husbandmen?” (v. 40.) Our Lord addresses this question to the sons of Israel, and as they return the correct answer, thereby passing sentence on themselves, He confirms their verdict in these appalling words, which you, my soul, will do well to lay to heart: “Therefore I say to you that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof.” (v. 43.) This prediction was first fulfilled in the case of the Hebrew people. The “people of God,” on whom the divine favors and graces made no impression, were cast away, and the vineyard of the Lord was given to other nations, to the Gentiles. And as this utterance of our Lord was accomplished in Israel’s case, so it has been and is continually fulfilled in the case of all nations, all cities, all Religious Orders and Congregations, and of every individual Christian soul who is guilty of the same sin the Jews committed. When the complaint of the Most High God spoken by the lips of His prophets: “What is there that I ought to do more to My vineyard that I have not done to it? Was it that I looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes? “ (Is. v. 4) begins to be true of any people or Christian Order, or Christian congregation, or of any single Christian soul, then the Lord removes the candlestick out of that place, and upon the unhappy spot the divine judgments fall; in the once beauteous and flourishing vineyard of the Lord deterioration and disorder prevail, destruction ensues, so that the prediction of the prophet a prediction to the truth of which countless instances in history bear testimony is fulfilled to its fullest extent: “I will make My vineyard desolate; it shall not be pruned and it shall not be digged, but briers and thorns shall come up, and I will command the clouds that they rain no rain on it.” (Is. v. 6.) What a sad fate! May it serve as a warning to you, but pay heed to the warning at once, ere the day closes: for who knows whether the Lord may not come on the morrow to His vineyard seeking for fruits?
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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