Fr. Charles Irvin
Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43
What’s the one thing you most fear in life? What’s the one thing that has preoccupied you since you were a child and throughout all of the years that have followed? Isn’t it fear of rejection?
Recall your early days as a child. Even as a tiny baby you screamed, shrieked and cried if you were not held, cuddled, kissed, and loved by your mother and your father. As a child you craved to play with playmates and you were miserable if they didn’t want to play with you. And when you were a teenager… well, words can’t begin to describe the pain and fear a teenager experiences when threatened by rejection.
If your parents divorce, isn’t your primal fear and first thought that one or the other is rejecting you, particularly the parent who because of the divorce is forced to leave your home? In divorce kids imagine they’re being rejected even though it isn’t the case.
Sometimes we’re so obsessed with the fear of rejection that we treat others badly. We treat them as if we were already rejected. Then, because we’re so sulky and isolating, they quite naturally don’t want to be around us.
And then there’s that horrible experience of rejection when a parent is confronted by a son or daughter who is on dope or alcohol, a child who is running around, who’s hardly ever at home except to eat, get cleaned up, and then leave again.
With all of the rejection we give each other, and in the midst of all of the rejection we ourselves experience, do we ever stop and consider how God has been hurt by our rejection of His love for us? Jesus presented us with today’s parable just before He entered Jerusalem for the last time. The crowds were about to spread palms in front of Him. Shortly thereafter He would go up on the Mount of Olives, there to weep and cry out in pain when He looked out over Jerusalem and cried: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you refused!” Then they crucified him.
We don’t like to admit it, but many times we reject God. Oh, we deny that… but in fact we do. How many times have there been when we just couldn’t be bothered by God. How many people act as if God simply doesn’t matter? How many times does His still, inner voice call us to do something and we refuse to listen to Him whisperings within us?
Then there’s the matter of rejecting God’s forgiveness. We are simply ignorant of the horrific sin that it is, slapping God in the face, declaring that God, God’s love, God’s forgiveness, simply doesn’t matter; that we can’t be bothered with it.
How many people do we know who should be here with us at Mass but are not because they can’t be bothered, have more important things to do that to receive God’s love?
The sin against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable because the sin consists in telling God that He is unimportant, that He makes no difference to us, is only a marginal part of our lives if, indeed, He has any part at all in our lives. How can God forgive us if we think it doesn’t matter?
The pain of rejection is horrible. That pain is made crystal clear and perfectly evident when we take a good look at the crucifix and understand its profound message, namely our rejection of God’s love for us. That’s why there’s a human body hanging on it. It’s not an empty cross, it’s a cross loaded to the full with rejection, the worst kind of pain that any of us can ever experience. The crucifix presents us with God nailed and immobilized because we won’t listen to him!
There’s no defense against rejection. No words can deal with rejection. There’s nothing we can do against it — which is perhaps why Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the personification of human judgment and rejection, and stood there in utter silence. Words simply cannot deal with the reality of rejection. Nothing can.
The parable we just heard in the Gospel is not just a parable about us. It is, rather, a glimpse into God’s heart. It tells us about how He feels, the hurt and pain He experiences at our hands.
During Good Friday services it was once common to hear the Reproaches. They were words placed in the mouth of God and directed at us. Perhaps some of you may remember them:
My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!
I led you out of Egypt; but you led your Savior to the Cross.
For forty years I led you safely through the desert, I fed you with manna from heaven, and brought you to the land of plenty; But you led your Savior to the Cross.
O, My people! What have I done to you that you should testify against me? Answer me!
One may wonder whether or not God can suffer. It seems to me that He does. In Christ Jesus, God the Son made human for us, He certainly did. And nothing caused Him more pain than our rejection of him.
So when you are experiencing rejection, and when the fear of rejection is overpowering within you, give some time to being alone with Christ. He’s here for you all of the time, twenty-four hours a day. He’s here in the Mass. He’s here in the Blessed Sacrament. He’s here in His house waiting for you to come and visit Him. Why not pay Him a visit from time to time? Why not come here and spend some time with Him? He’d love that, you know. He’d love to have someone come and give Him some time alone with Him, along with some words of love for Him. He knows rejection, and in His infinite love and caring for us, He gives us His power to overcome rejection and know what it is to love and be loved in return.