There is a lot of violence in today’s gospel. Jesus gives a parable about the owner of a vineyard sending his servants to obtain produce from the tenants. But the tenants seize the servants, beat them and even kill some of them. Finally, the owner sends his son, and the tenants kill him, too.
Jesus addressed this parable to the chief priests, the scribes and the elders, and they knew he was talking about them. It is easy for us to say, “Oh, those bad guys,” and to dismiss this parable as not applying to us.
But then in the background we hear Jesus’s words, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, you do to me” (Matthew 25:40). And we hang our heads in shame. For our world is filled with people being seized, beaten and killed. From abortion to war, from rape to road rage, from school shootings to suicide bombings, violence abounds all over the earth. Even a five minute sampling of the daily news shows us the Passion of Jesus going on today.
The Incarnation, Jesus becoming a human being, was God’s way of shouting to us that the human body fashioned by the Creator is holy and beautiful. It is to be reverenced, cared for and enjoyed. If we deeply felt that, I believe we would be less inclined to physically hurt ourselves or others, less inclined to bully or insult others, and less inclined to misuse our bodies in overwork and overeating.
In short, we would be less inclined to violence. Instead, there would stepped-up efforts to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and give drink to the thirsty. There would be stepped-up efforts to improve sanitation, provide quality education and decent housing. There would be stepped-up efforts to share good art, music and literature. There would be a greater commitment to unity and peace among nations.
Bodies hurt; bodies cry; bodies die. Bodies also laugh, dance and hug. The Church and its spiritual leaders should lead the way in the graceful celebration of human life, — soul, mind and body. The care of the earth begins with the care of the human person. “Laudauto Si’,mi’ Sigore,” — “Praised be to thee, my lord.”
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California. http://www.alanphillipcp.com/