This Sunday’s Gospel on the stewards of the vineyard has many applications. I’d like to share some that came to me upon more prolonged reflection.
A deeper application I’d like to focus on is whether we look at ourselves as stewards or owners of the vineyard. Do we think that everything’s ours or God’s? Our answer to this question will generally determine whether we’ll bear good fruit or not.
If we look at TIME as God’s we’ll try to spend it in his presence, keeping a spirit of prayer up all day long and then letting that prayer overflow into our actions. If we look at time as ours, on the other hand, how many times we’ll resent coming to Mass — as if it’s a tax on our time.We’ll look at prayer as a burden rather than a blessing. We’ll jealously guard our “free time” rather than look how to spend it for the kingdom, laboring out of love for God and for others. And if we’re thinking like that, we’ll almost never bear anything more than wild grapes.
If we look at our TALENTS as gifts of God with a built-in purpose, we’ll consistently ask how we can best use them to build up the kingdom. If we look at them as ours, as if we’re the owners not the stewards, then we’ll use them above all to build up OUR kingdom instead of God’s. Moreover, if we think in this way, the more talented we are, the greater the risk will be that we’ll be overcome with pride; our talents will begin to divide us from others, making us think that we’re superior to them, rather than become motivations to “serve our brothers and sisters.”
If we look at all our MONEY and POSSESSIONS as God’s, then we will seek to use them in the way they will most help build up the Lord’s kingdom. We will be like the stewards in the Gospel who received five talents and invested it to make for the Lord five more. One hundred percent of our money — just like our time and our talents — is the Lord’s, but we always ned to ask how much of it we dedicate to the Lord’s work. When the person comes with the collection basket, we should imagine that it is Christ holding the basket and ask ourselves whether He would think we’re being generous. If we look at the money as ours, rather than God’s, then we will often either be stingy with God and others, or be proud (thinking that someone should give us praise if we’re generous), when all we’re doing is giving back to the Lord a relatively small percentage of what he has given us. The more we think that our money and possessions are ours, the less the odds that we will produce the fruit which is the only currency we can transfer to the next world.
The key with all of this is that if we realize everything we have is a gift, then we will try to be as generous as possible in return; if, on the other hand, we think everything is ours, we will often try to do the minimum. As we’ve learned in school, those whose goal is merely to “pass” rather than get an A are often those who end up flunking. The life that God has given us is like a game of cards with Jesus. We’ve all been dealt different cards. Jesus wants us to win. He starts us out by having us meet him with a dime in. Then he raises us a quarter. Then he has us match him at a dollar. Finally he says, “This is my body given for you,” and the only way we can stay in the game is with similar self-giving generosity. That’s what a life of faith is all about. The Lord who spent his human life on earth laboring in the vineyard, bearing the fruits of our salvation, turns to each of us and says, “I’m all in.” He wants us to match him. If we recognize that he has given us all the chips, that everything we are and have is his, we will have no fear to meet him in this game of life with the highest of stakes. It’s only when we think that everything is ours that we fear the risk of going all in.
Father Michael Adams is the Pastor of Our Lady of the Shoals Catholic Church. Learn more about him here.