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Loving What is Right

Boat on lake at sunset

Mt. 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: "Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, 'They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.' They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?" They answered him, "He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times." Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit."

“Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.” (St. Augustine)

We get stuck in the gutters of life all too often. We think about what is evil, instead of what is good. This is how the news works. They try to catch our attention through sensational headlines and then we get sucked into a news story. Oftentimes, the main headlines do not even speak about what is most important for the country and for society. But they want to always hold onto our attention. Remember, when you can’t see what the product is, you are the product. Your attention is what they sell to advertisers, immediately through ads and later through sharing your personal information.

The Word of God invites the beauty of our souls to grow. The Word invites us to love.

As Christians, we have the great privilege of looking at higher things. Paul wrote to the Philippians:

“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.” (Philippians 4:7-8)

Next time you want to turn on the news, maybe crack open the Bible and look at Philippians first.

This gives us good criteria about what to think about. Do we think about what is true and honorable, or do we get stuck in lies and slander? So much honor has been lost in our society.

The evil men in today’s Gospel got caught up in their own plans and selfishness. This led them to kill the son of the owner. The same thing can happen to us when we get caught up in our own plans. Our selfishness leads down a terrible path. We forget what is just and pure in favor of what is base and defiled. If you open up your phone and scroll through the pictures, how much is pure and just in comparison to what is base and defiled?

What leads to evil thoughts in our minds leads often to evil actions of our heart and hands. We should follow the maxim of programmers and engineers: “garbage in, garbage out.” How do we nourish ourselves spiritually? The world is so aggressive with a very negative messaging. We want to respond with something more positive.

The men of the time of Jesus missed what was truly lovely and gracious. Jesus was the lovely and gracious one, but he was sacrificed on the altar of men’s egoism and evil. How often do we do the same thing?

We often get stuck loving the wrong thing. Reflecting on happiness in the context of the City of God, St. Augustine reflected that love has to be rightly ordered. The men in the Gospel did not have an ordered love. They focused on their own sense of entitlement instead of seeking what was truly right and just. St. Augustine invites us to contemplate that which is good and holy and to direct our hearts toward it. It seems to echo the voice of Paul in the second reading. We should let ourselves be drawn to the true, the honorable, the just, the pure. We should get excited about loveliness, and grace, and excellence.

Too often, we stuff ourselves with potato chips and are unable to enjoy the main meal. This is what happens when we fill up on worldly things and have no room for the spiritual nourishment which will feed our souls.

Now he is a man of just and holy life who forms an unprejudiced estimate of things, and keeps his affections also under strict control, so that he neither loves what he ought not to love, nor fails to love what he ought to love, nor loves that equally which ought to be loved either less or more, nor loves less or more which ought to be loved equally. No sinner is to be loved as a sinner; and every man is to be loved as a man for God's sake; but God is to be loved for His own sake. And if God is to be loved more than any man, each man ought to love God more than himself. (St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, I. 27. 28).

So, our challenge is to learn to love the way we should. So many of the problems of our world come from disordered love. It is up to us to recover the true concept of love and rescue it for our modern world.

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