Sunday, September 25, 2016


In the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen, we read of a rich man who plants a vineyard and hires workmen to tend it, then sets forth on an extended journey.  When the time comes to gather in the fruits, the lord of the vineyard sends servants to collect that which is due to him as the owner.  When these servants are abused and beaten by the workmen, the lord sends his only son, considering that surely the workmen will respect him.  But alas, no:  the son is brutally beaten and slain, then cast out of the vineyard.  At this point, our Lord asks his listeners, "When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?"  And "they say unto Him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men...."  And we read as well in today's Gospel Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees: "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the condemnation of hell?"

These clear words of the Gospel contradict the modern sentiment, "God doesn't judge, so we shouldn't judge either."  But obviously God does pass judgment on hypocrites and liars, on those who profess to be pious and Godfearing while they willingly transgress against the spirit of the Law.  As I have insisted so often in my sermons, God is love, and the law of love is the very essence of our Faith.  So then, the question is:  how can the God of Love say such mean things?  And if He does indeed love us as creatures created in His image, how can He condemn so severely those who have gone astray from the path of salvation?

Take note, however:  He is not condemning ordinary sinners such as you and I, who have, due to the weakness of their fallen human nature, fallen into sinfulness and depravity.  Rather, His condemnation falls squarely upon those to whom the truth has been revealed, yet they persist in violating that law of love that is the very source and foundation of the created order.

The truth is, however-- our Lord merely confirms that condemnation we ourselves have fallen into as a result of our willful rejection of the love of God revealed through Christ's sacrificial suffering upon the Cross.  The Pharisees rejected this unconditional love, being too proud to humble themselves before this perfect love and to bear the fruits of repentance.  They preferred instead to seek their own righteousness--which is, in the end, a false righteousness which has been likened to filthy rags.  We are, nevertheless, neither punished nor rewarded for our faithfulness (or lack thereof) to His commandments.  Heaven or hell, in the end, is merely the natural consequence of the way we have chosen to live our lives in this fallen world.

But the sad part is: the Pharisee that lives within us all fully embraces the lawless rebellion against God, so that we freely chose of our own free will to set ourselves upon that broad path that leads to perdition.  In other words, God condemns us only because we have already condemned ourselves. Rather than humbly bending our knees, imploring the boundless mercy of God, we proudly seek to set up for ourselves an impregnable fortress of self-righteousness.  

So it is that we are condemned already, you and I.  Nevertheless, if we--unlike the Pharisees of old--condemn ourselves here and now, then--and only then--shall we avoid falling into that condemnation that leads to eternal death.  And it is through repentance alone that the greatest sinner (even you and I) can hope to be released from the bondage of sin into the eternal light of God's heavenly Kingdom.

No comments:

Post a Comment