We Are Saved By Our Response to God’s Love

Sermon on the parable of the vineyard

Matt, XXI, 33-42

33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:

34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.

35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.

36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.

37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.

38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.

39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.

40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?

41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.

42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

9Today’s Gospel, interrupting, so to speak, a series of joyful readings, is a very terrifying one: the story of the workers in the vineyard who turned out to be traitors.

And indeed this par-able reflects the whole history of the human race, but in the context of all the readings that have gone before, it tells us also of the terrible, in the full sense of that word, ingratitude of mankind, including all of us, to God. In the face of all His love, all His miracles, in the face of everything that He has accomplished, we remain unmoved and self-centred; we think of ourselves, we do not think of our neighbours, still less do we think of God; ingratitude, self love, concentration on ourselves, on what we want, what appeals to us, what seems necessary to us.

Today’s Gospel reading tells us that God created a whole beautiful wonderful world, fenced it with His might and His providence, prepared everything in it so that it could be the place of God’s Kingdom, that is the Kingdom of mutual love, the Kingdom of joy. But we know what we people have made of this world; a place where men are afraid to where there is bloodshed, where inhuman, cruel acts are committed, and not only on a world wide scale, but on a family scale, a parish scale, and among the closest friends. From generation to generation the Lord has sent His messengers: patriarchs, prophets, angels, preachers, the Forerunner; and finally He came Himself to remind us that the world was created for love. And as in the parable the workers led the son out of the vineyard and killed him, so mankind treated the incarnate Son of God. And when I say mankind, I am speaking not of others, but of us ourselves, because life is entrusted to us to make of it a triumph of love, brotherhood, harmony, faith and joy, and we do not do so, because we think only of ourselves. In response to everything that God has done for us, created us, revealing Himself to us, pouring out all His love on us and finally giving us the life and death of His Son, we produce hardly anything but a brief “Thank you” and instantly forget.

Turn back to everything you heard during Lent, to what you saw on the night of Christ’s Resurrection, to what was said in all the subsequent weeks by the saints, the saints of Russia, the saints of these islands, by the Gospel of love and humanity. Consider all this and ask yourselves, “am I not a worker in the vineyard, and am I not one of those who pushes Christ away every time He enters my life? Do I not say: get off my path, get out of my life — I want to be the God, the master, I want to manage everything.” Thus speaks each one of us, not so rudely, not so blasphemously, but in actions, in rotten words.

We must come to our senses. I have said many times that we are saved because God loves us; yet not by the love of God only, but by our response to this love. It our wish is merely to reap the fruits of the Gross, of the crucifixion, of the days of the passion, and return nothing to God, and give nothing to our neighbour for whom God died, except a momentary thought, we are alien to everything that God accomplished for us.

Let us therefore stand before the warning, the reminder in today’s Gospel and face the question, “where is my gratitude? Do I embody it not only in words, which are rare enough but in deeds?” Let us pass judgement on ourselves and start a new life. Gratitude to God consists in being a joy to Him, and to our neighbour a support, a saviour and a joy. Let us begin today to bear the fruits of what we have just learned from God through Christ. Amen.

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