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October 8, 2023: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus’ parables are much stranger than most people realize. This week is an attention-getting example. He tells the religious leaders a parable about a completely absurd situation. Blood-thirsty and insane tenants violently abuse and kill the servants of their landlord. Inexplicably, the owner keeps sending them more victims of increasing value — up to and including his own son. Weird.

Usually, we hear this parable and assume it’s an allegory: Jesus is the murdered son, the servants the prophets, etc. Fair enough. But notice — and here is where the weirdness deepens — Jesus seems to disagree with the Pharisees’ interpretation that the landowner should and will punish the inheritance-obsessed murderers. So, is Jesus praising the psychotic and greedy murderers?! You can imagine the furrowed brows and deriding laughter as the scoffing crowd shuffles away.

If we stay with this tough parable, perhaps this truth emerges: God wants us to have an over-the-top obsession with a totally undeserved inheritance. Of course, we are forbidden to use violence. But the parable’s violence gets our attention because it highlights the crazy goodness of the landowner. Jesus reveals that God is not merely in the business of rewarding the good and punishing the bad. He is playing a much stranger game — one marked by a kind of over-the-top mercy, a breathtaking giving of what is not deserved. What would our week look like if we embraced this kind of desire for God’s kingdom on earth, even if others think we’re nuts? This week let’s seek God’s kingdom with a passionate confidence in God’s desire to give the good things we don’t deserve.

— Father John Muir



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