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Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 2, 2011 (27A)
By Fr. John J. Ludvik
There was a man by the name of Sargent Shriver and many in the parish community probably won’t remember him. He was a brother in law of President John F. Kennedy. He died at age 95 after struggling for a decade with Alzheimer’s.
The obituaries lauded his public work, his marriage to John Kennedy’s sister, and mentioned his famous daughter, Maria, and son-in-law, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Shriver was seen as one of the last connections to the era of Camelot. But the sum of his parts was so much greater than that. He was one that carefully guarded the vineyard for the Master, the theme of the Gospel today.
Sargent Shriver embodied those ideals – with joy, with idealism, with faith. And he did it without sacrificing his Catholic identity. He and his wife Eunice attended mass every day. He was his faith, and his faith was him. It was so deeply ingrained in him that his daughter Maria said, of her father’s debilitating dementia: “He could pray the rosary perfectly. But he couldn’t remember who I was.” Today is Respect Life Sunday and we too are Catholics and the vineyard has been given us to protect.
For all his devotion, his daily attendance at mass, Shriver knew that the work of Christianity unfolds out in the world. The man who prayed so fervently at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, lived his faith outside the cathedral doors – in the corridors of power, on campaign buses, traveling the world for the cause of peace. And that too should stand as a powerful reminder.--- On this Respect Life Sunday we too are called to protect life, and rather talking about issues I wanted to bring before you a model that has stood out to me. He was a layman in the Church, standing up for values. That is our call. Sargent Shriver understood that, and lived that. He was a man who stood up for Pro Life. Do we?
One of the world's smallest kingdoms is the nation of Liech-tenstein, a constitutional monarchy of only 61 square miles found between Austria and Switzerland on the Rhine River. Yet, I tell you there is a kingdom smaller than that, and that kingdom is your life. I'm talking about the vineyard God has planted in your life and leased out to you. I'm talking about that small mound of flesh over which you have jurisdiction. How are you behaving toward the God who put you here to tend his vineyard and give him his due? Have you mistreated his rent collectors sent to receive what is due? Or more importantly, what have you done with God's Son, the man Jesus? Have you crucified him anew as you've made a grab for it all, or have you honored him with the worship of faith and obedience?
There’s a story that might better explain our call. The story goes like this:
Let’s begin with ”Once Upon a Time” there was a little village in the mountains of Italy where the people grew grapes. The mountain sides were covered with vineyards and each family in the community contributed to the making of wine. It was some of the finest wine in the world. Each village had a number of different recipes. Each family would bring their wine to the center of town and pour it into one large keg. As a result, the wine was a mixture of many recipes which made it very unique.--- One particular year the weather did not cooperate and the vineyards did not produce an abundance of grapes. One of the wine makers decided that since things would be tight that year he would sell his wine elsewhere. He then filled his barrel with water and poured it into the town keg, thinking that one barrel of water in the gigantic keg would go unnoticed and not impact the outcome of the wine.
The wine in the keg aged for seven years. At the end of seven years the villagers all gathered around that particular keg to sell their wine to merchants who had come from all over the world. The entire community depended on the sale of their wine to provide for them until the next season. The villagers gathered around the giant keg and it was tapped. A pitcher was placed at the tap and out came nothing but pure water. It seemed that everyone in the village that year had the same idea and none had put in wine. Since everyone held back there was no wine to sell.
The villagers refused to share their wine with their neighbors and consequently no one ended up with anything. The parable of the vineyard is not unlike the villagers in Italy. The servants were to reap the fruits of the vineyard for the landowner but were denied that opportunity by the tenants. The tenants refused to share their grapes with others. They even went so far as to mistreat the servants and even kill the landowner's son.
Jesus uses the parable of the vineyard to describe the kingdom of God. It reminds us that we are here temporarily on earth and that we are God's guests. God wants us to be grateful for all that we have and to share what we have been given. Too many of our Catholic People do not live the wine of faith and do not bring it to be shared to their families or to the Parish.
Too many are like the tenants who refused to share their grapes or their wine with others, who do nothing about stewardship or protecting life from conception to old age, and so many areas in between. The Bible teaches that life is a gift of God and hence we have to respect it from womb to tomb.
We, as Catholics and as citizens, have a duty to raise our voice to advance the Culture of Life. We ENTRUST Our commitment to our Lady. May she guide us through the light of reason, the light of conscience and the light of faith, so that we may turn more fully to her Son, to the light eternal, and give living witness to the plan of life, “the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past” (Eph 3: 9), the plan made know by God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.