29th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)
Who is the landowner? Who is the tenant? Who is responsible for cultivating what has been planted? Metaphors such as these found in today’s readings help us correlate scriptural wisdom with the reality of contemporary life. We can reflect on our God-given gifts and how we should develop and use them for the good of all God’s people; we can recognize our historically lax attitude toward the health of our planet and vow to be better stewards of God’s creation; we can strive to raise our children in ways that foster a desire to be good Christian, global citizens. We can revisit how in recent years prophetic voices have been ignored, even killed, just as they were in biblical times. And, on and on. Each of these examples are valid. But can today’s message be understood as more than a terse reminder to take good care of what God has given us?
A close reading of today’s scriptures, particularly the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, is revealing. St. Paul, who was incarcerated at the time and unsure of his future, wrote with great affection to the distressed community of Philippi which was nearing a potential split. His words take on the tone of a pep talk encouraging them to entrust their worries and anxieties to God and to focus on living peaceably even amidst differences. St. Paul exhorts them to consider the following: “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.” [Phil 4:8-9]
Taken together today’s readings point to respect, and as an evangelizing people we want to think about these things and give witness to them in all that we do. Respect for life. Respect for one another. Respect for what God has planted: in us, and in all of creation. And respect for the voices and example of those who courageously, selflessly, and constantly follow the example of Jesus Christ, and point us right back to God.