GOD ACCEPTS ALL REJECTS AND MAKES THEM HIS SUBJECTS
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ GEN 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28; PS 105:16-21; MT 21:33-43, 45-46 ]
The reason why there are so many wounded people in the world and why we are also hurting each other is because we feel rejected by society. We feel that our parents do not love us unconditionally. Often, like Jacob who favoured Joseph above all his other children, those who of us who are discriminated feel as if we are second-class members of the family. We do not feel that we are loved for who we are. That is why most of us suffer from deep inferiority complex. We are always seeking to please our parents and elders, hoping to find recognition from them. Indeed, those who are loved and recognized by their parents tend to do better in life than their siblings who are not as favoured or appreciated.
As a result, we suffer from low self-esteem. This leads to many other sins. We become envious of others who have more than us, just like the brothers of Joseph. We read that “Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons, for he was the son of his old age, and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. But his brothers, seeing how his father loved him more than all his other sons, came to hate him so much that they could not say a civil word to him.” Envy leads to anger and hatred. Indeed, often, because of envy, we seek to destroy those who are more favoured than us, even when at times, it is not their fault that they are being favoured. It is a misplaced anger. This happens especially in the office when the boss favours some staff over others.
This was also the case of the religious and political leaders of Israel. They felt threatened by the prophets that God sent to them. They were greedy like the tenants in the gospel who were not willing to share the produce they made. They wanted to grab everything for themselves. They were ungrateful that the master gave them the vineyard to till. We read, “when vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next, he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way.” They refused to listen to the appeal of God. In truth, the religious leaders of Israel during the time of Jesus were also envious of Jesus. He was becoming too popular. The people were all going to Him. Their status quo was threatened. They tried to discredit Jesus by asking Him all sorts of questions but Jesus put all of them in their place.
What is frightening is that envy and greed will lead to anger and killing. This was the case with the brothers of Joseph. The brothers “made a plot among themselves to put him to death. ‘Come on, let us kill him and throw him into some well; we can say that a wild beast devoured him, then we shall see what becomes of his dreams.'” So too the religious and political leaders felt the same way during the time of the prophets. This was what the Lord said of them. “I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation.” (Lk 11:49-51)
Today we are told that we are not rejects of God. Every one of us is important to Him. Even if we were like the Prodigal Son, He would welcome us back with great joy. “But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. The father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe – the best one – and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” (cf Lk 15:20-24) Indeed, St Paul reminded the Corinthians, “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters; not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor 1:26-29)
This is the truth of God’s love. God loves us all. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16) He loves us in spite of our weakness, as in the case of Joseph who was partly at fault because he was so over confident of himself and boasted of his dreams. He dreamt that one day he would tower over his brothers and they would serve him. (cf Gen 37:5-11) He rescued them from death and slavery. In Jesus’ case, although He was harsh with the Jewish leaders, it was because He wanted to wake them up from their blindness to the truth about themselves. He loved the leaders too and continued to appeal to them for conversion and not destroy themselves. He continued to appeal to them to repent so that they could find true freedom. Indeed, God loves each one of us so much that He would sacrifice His only Son to save us all. “Finally he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.’ So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” This was the way, the Jewish leaders repaid God’s kindness and mercy. Unfortunately, this is also the way we repay God’s love for us by rejecting Him.
That is why we must trust in the Lord and surrender our lives to Him, our strengths and our weaknesses. We must trust the Lord as Joseph did. But for this to happen, God had to teach and humble Joseph first so that he would be a good and humble leader. Joseph on the other hand, had to surrender to the will of God. He was almost killed by his brothers, sold as a slave, then worked as a servant, imprisoned after being framed, and then rose to power when the Pharaoh made him second in command to him. Joseph cooperated with God. He did not bear grudges but forgave his brothers.
Indeed, if we trust in Him, God will send people to rescue us and save us, just as He inspired Rueben to save Joseph. “Reuben heard, and he saved him from their violence. ‘We must not take his life,’ he said. ‘Shed no blood,’ said Reuben to them, ‘throw him into this well in the wilderness, but do not lay violent hands on him.’ – intending to save him from them and to restore him to his father.” Then He sent some Midianite merchants who bought Joseph “for twenty silver pieces, and these men took Joseph to Egypt.” From there, the Lord realized the dream of Joseph in unexpected ways, but not in the way he had planned.
God writes straight in crooked lines. It was the same case for our Lord. He was put to death and His Father would raise Him from the dead. Of course, this went against the plan of Peter and the apostles. “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.'” (Mt 16:22) God will turn our disadvantages to His advantage. Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: It was the stone rejected by the builders that became the keystone. This was the Lord’s doing and it is wonderful to see?” By allowing the Lord to be killed, God showed His power over sin and death. St Paul exclaimed, “‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin.” But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (cf 1 Cor 15:55-57) Indeed, through the expected death of our Lord and the more amazing fact of His resurrection, God showed His power over sin and death. “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)
God is the One who gives us the grace to become who we are meant to be. We need to accept His grace and cooperate with Him by working with others. No one is a threat to us but all are our collaborators in building the kingdom of God. So let us have hope in His grace. Our refusal to cooperate with God is the cause of our misery, as in the case of the tenants in the gospel. And the Lord warned us, “‘Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”
So let us remember the wonders of the Lord so that we will never falter in our faith when the trials of life set in. When the psalmist recalled how the Lord helped Joseph to realize his dreams, he could not but find hope in the wondrous ways the Lord works in our lives. We must never give up our dreams. Joseph never did, neither did our Lord. We can keep our dreams alive when we remember the wonders of the Lord as the Israelites did and as Christians do when we celebrate the Eucharist, the memorial of His passion, death and resurrection.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
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