Today, statues of St. Francis of Assisi appear in our gardens, sometimes with small water bowls inviting birds to drink or perhaps a bird sitting on his shoulder. Today is his feast day.
St. Francis was blessed personally with a vision, with an insight and with an understanding about all of creation and how it fits together, how it is connected, from the smallest insect, to a flower, trees to mountains, sun and moon, stars and oceans.
Everyone and everything is connected, united by the most powerful thread in all creation — by the very presence of God, because everything, small and large, contains within it, the very life presence of God.
Even science can see the connecting life presence, but does not necessarily see or name the presence — the God of life.
Why is it so important to remember who and what we are? If we pondered and reflected about the connection, we would be much more reverent in protecting and appreciating who we are. Rather than stepping on ants who are brother and sister ants, maybe we could let their more natural way of passing on take place. No, it is the insecticide that is the answer.
The fact is, that we have created many scientific, lethal poisons to control, to kill, to fashion what we think is good for our created world.
World climate change is not a hoax created by liberal Democrats. The earth is generating powerful heat waves that cause fire and powerful wind and rain hurricanes battering our coasts, our wildlands and the Eastern seaboard.
The pandemic is not a hoax either. It has changed what we can do and when we can do it. It has no particular regard for wealth or science and is indiscriminate as to whom it touches. Catch it and you will not experience a hoax.
And science scrutinizes personal theories that have no basis in reality. We can call the truth Fake News, and we can spin alternative realities but the truth is the truth. And the hoax will not have the last laugh.
Today’s Scripture readings remind us of alternative realities and hoaxes. It is part of our human nature to create them and part of God’s divine nature to debunk and destroy them.
Before we look at Today’s Scriptures, we need to remember God’s dream, which is the reality — the first 4 chapters of the Book of Genesis.
“God created man (and woman) in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. Chapter one ends with a comment from God: “God saw all he had made, and it indeed was very good.”
God had put it all together: harmony, order, interconnection. But then came Adam and Eve and the Serpent. What happened next was not a hoax. Adam and Eve shifted the blame for all the disorder that they caused. God then cursed the serpent, cursed the soil. God said that we would have to wait and work our way towards eternity. “For dust you are and to dust you shall return.”
And then there was Cain and Abel, whom Cain murdered. Thus, began the great chain of cause and effect.
Today, Jesus tells us a parable using the images of a landowner and a vineyard. The parable is a lament really. The Old Testament’s favorite word for Israel as a people was the word: The Vineyard.
Thus, when Matthew tells his story today, he reflects back into the parable the angry feelings of the late 1st century followers of Jesus who were being persecuted just like Jesus was.
God expects to get a return on his investment in our lives, Jesus says. What gifts have we that God has not given or allowed? We can follow the alternative reality, always taking from life on the intention that God placed originally in our hearts to produce a greater fruit through our sharing, working together, and looking out for more than what “we” can get in return.
Jesus reflects today also on Isaiah the Prophet’s first use of the parable of the Vineyard — some 700 years before reminding us that God had created everything and put his very best into it, and all he got for his effort was the total lack of attention from the people of Israel. Israel thought that God was a hoax. They thought their agenda was better. And God said, “okay, go to Babylon for 70 years.” And that was no hoax.
Do you really understand what is going on? We are suffering the result of our misuse of creation in a global climate. God is not going to fix it, but we can.
We can fix the rising temperatures, and the dangerous change of rains and hurricanes and floods.
We don’t seem to be able to stop the pandemic, and pretending that it is a hoax only increases its terrible effects.
We have never been God. I don’t think that many people today understand that. We want to be delivered from what we can’t control. Perhaps we need to start from the bent knees of humility.
Now, this is where our words of St. Paul from his letter to the Philippians offer us some wisdm and a solution:
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”
The but is in the prayer: “That you thank God for for who I am and all that I have and help me to be faithful to you. I know that you will do the rest.”
“Give me this or that” prayers will not work. God requires that we acquire spiritual astuteness.
St. Paul offers this prescription for our predicament today, and it won’t come with anxiety or a snap of our fingers.
“I hope, that you would consider his spiritual recipe — as a new way to begin to pray, a new way to live, a new set of attitudes to have:
St. Paul writes:
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Then the God of peace will be with you. Then!