“Let me sing to my friend
Let me sing to my friend the song of his love
Let me sing to my friend the song of his love for his vineyard” (Isaiah 5:1)
Michael scared the life out of me the first time we met! He was so angry and aggressive with bitterness carved into the shape of his mouth. Eyes on fire! I was repelled inside but I stood my ground because he was hungry and he had come to our house for food. So I got something together and gave it to him. He scowled. I left him alone.
Oddly enough we became friends over time; we grew to love each other. And we often laughed together.
He started to tell me the story of his life and I listened. It completely changes your perspective when you hear what the other has been through, even though it also leaves you helpless because there is nothing you can do to change what another person has experienced, can’t change what life has done to them. But we can be present to a certain extent and we can listen. Listen without judgement!
Michael had had a very brutal childhood during which he was severely beaten on a regular basis and it left him seriously damaged. Relationships didn’t work out, jobs didn’t last and he ended up homeless. The only comfort he got was when he drank but that’s a comfort that only lasts a while and when it fades it leaves a man desolate and desperate. He died young and it was probably a happy release for him but I missed him when he was gone.
It’s Michael I think about when I read the lovely and lonely song of the vineyard at Mass today, the 27th Sunday.
The vineyard of the Lord, in Old Testament times, is the House of Israel! Today it is us, God’s own people whom He dearly loves. It is the individual person, especially the one who ends up desolate and rejected for whatever reason.
Vineyards bearing fruit are beautiful to behold. We saw many of them on the Camino – rich grapes full of juice, full of promise, powerful symbol of life. They can only be beautiful when tended carefully, diligently, by hard work.
To let a vineyard go is to surrender it to the wild, untamed ways of nature. I see it in my own back garden. Not a vineyard but a garden, a very nice garden in my mother’s time. It’s still not bad but the end of it has gone wild because I can’t look after it. Amazing the speed and persistence of briars! They take over everything.
There are briars that take over the mind and heart and soul of a person, to such an extent that they give up on themselves and most others give up on them too. They become the rejected.
When Jesus talks about the vineyard in the gospel He reminds us that He too is the rejected one – the stone that the builders rejected – and He takes the part of all those whom society rejects, all those whom we reject, the Michaels of this world.
In the ways of God it is those who are rejects who become the key to salvation; it is through them that we are introduced to the most authentic experience of God, the most profound of spiritual experiences.
It requires a change of mind, a conversion of our way of thinking, learning to think in the way that Christ thinks on all levels of life, as St. Paul said last week, “In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2) Most of the time we don’t want to go there because it actually challenges our deep-seated attitudes that we are unwilling to let go of.
But if we take the way of positive, God-like thinking, the way that leads to peace then we will come to see everything and especially every person in a different light.
“Fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise…Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:6-9)
When our minds are so filled in this way, then we have the enlightenment to see the rejects of society as God sees them and, hopefully respond to them as God does, in love rather than in fear.
This quote from John Chrysostom, which I saw on Facebook yesterday, is very apt, “If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find him in the chalice.”
Please take a look at Snowflake Nightshelter website:
– Father Eamonn Monson SAC (https://eamonnmonson.blogspot.co.uk/)