27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Albert Cylwicki, in his book “His Word Resounds,” tells this story. In 1978 a man traveled to Cincinnati to attend the funeral of Max Ellerbusch. Max had been like a father to this man for twenty years.
Nothing unusual, except that as 15-year-old this man had taken his mother’s car, and struck and killed Max’s 5-year-old son. This was a week before Christmas in 1958.
Soon after the accident, a surprised court heard Max ask that the charges be dropped. Instead he wanted to give the death-car driver a job and help toward his education. Max did all that and more, virtually adopting the 15-year-old boy into his family. Max shared his home, time and understanding with the troubled youth.
I am sure the reaction of many, if not all, to this is: “He was able to do that, really?” Kayo, magagawa ba ninyong kaibiganin at kalingain ang taong pumatay sa anak ninyo? Will you be able to give the best opportunities you can afford to the person who killed your loved one? Max must have been crazy to go out of his way that much to become like a father to that boy.
Albert Cylwicki has a beautiful commentary and reflection on today’s gospel passage. I am borrowing much of his thoughts for this homily.
Cylwicki says that if Max Ellerbusch was a little crazy, so is God. The parable in today’s gospel reading describes God as a landowner who prepared a beautiful vineyard and gave it to his people to tend. However, his people wanted not just their share of the harvest, but the whole thing. They even abused and killed the prophets God sent to help them.
Finally, in a desperate attempt to save his vineyard and his people, God sent his own Son, hoping they would respect and honor him. Nonetheless, they abused and killed him, too, in an effort to seize his inheritance. They wanted not just their share, not just the produce. They wanted all!
The landowner, symbolizing God, is not logical. The landowner has unlimited love. And he is willing to give up even his son as he tries to show that God never stops loving.
Albert Cylwicki makes this commentary: “What a silly, foolish story,” we might say. “No landowner in his right mind would risk sending his own son among rebels who had already murdered his messengers.” “How crazy can you get?” “Who can believe in a God so dumb?” But, as Cylwicki emphasizes, that is precisely the point of the parable. Where we would cry for vengeance on the tenants, God chose another alternative – the way of unconditional love.
God chose to use the tragic death of his own Son to give new life to his people. He chose to outdo the hatred of his people by his generous outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them. Yes, when his own Son was tortured and crucified, God chose the way of unconditional love. And he is still doing it today.
God is so in love with us that he overlooks our faults and failures. No matter how far we wander away from him like lost sheep, he gently seeks us out and brings us back to himself. No matter how foolish or wasteful we have been with our lives, he is always ready to give us a fresh start. No matter how hopeless or desperate our situation might become, he has already prepared a way out for us.
Moreover, what God does for us is an example of what we should for one another. Tayo ay nalalagay sa maraming sitwasyon na kung saan maaari nating ibigay o ipakita ang ating unconditional love sa ating kapwa. Tayo ay may iba’t ibang uri ng mga sugat o sakit o masasaklap na karanasan na maaari nating gamiting dahilan para magalit at maghinagpis sa iba. O, tulad ni Max Ellerbusch, maaari natin itong gamitin na pagkakataon para maging mapagbigay – ibigay ang ating unconditional love. Ibigay ito sa kapamilyang drug dependent, alcoholic, sugarol, sakit ng ulo o basag-ulo. Ibigay ito sa kasamahang tsismosa, reklamador, pintasera, oportunista, back-biter. We can always choose the way of unconditional love.
By allowing today’s parable to touch and inspire us, we can feel beyond our own personal wounds, and reach out with compassion to heal the wounds of another who may be hurting more than we. By following God’s way of unconditional love, we can use each death of a part of ourselves as a means of passing on new life to another person.