18th Saturday in Ordinary Time
When the Lord, your God, brings you into the land which he swore to your fathers….a land with fine cities that you did not build, with house full of goods …that you did not garner, with cisterns you did not dig, with vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant, and when, therefore, you eat your fill, take care not to forget the Lord
This passage from Deuteronomy reminds us of something we often forget – that all is gift. Each of us is alive and conscious right now with a life we did not give ourselves or a consciousness that is prior to our own ‘I’. We find ourselves in a world, in a place, in a time we did not create, with a language and culture we did not invent but inherit. As Catholics we do not create the Church, we always find ourselves situated in Her, She is there before we are born, when baptized as mute infants we were spoken for by Her and our life after that is coming into an inheritance whose end point in the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. In the Eucharist we receive the priceless Body and Blood of the Lord without paying any price ourselves. All these gifts are so unobtrusive, so close to our skin that we take them for granted. Like the tenants in the vineyard we lapse into forgetfulness and resent the claims of the owner of the vineyard. The tenants put the heir to death and we too do something similar when we forget the constant claim God has on us. We find all that is wrong around us, we complain, and forget the one thing that is expected of us – to be grateful and never forget the giver of the gifts.
Evil is always parasitic. It is always a distortion of the good. The good is primary. But evil calls so much attention to itself and we can be so taken up with what is wrong that we forget the substratum of the good that is just there, a quiet, gentle basso profundo that we take for granted. Like the Father who causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and who sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. A Father is who is always forgotten amidst the histrionics of evil.
Moses tells the people ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone’ The claims of God are all encompassing ‘you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength’ There is no way we can do this unless a profound gratitude marks our life. Claims such as these on all of our heart, all of our soul and all of our strength would otherwise generate either an overt resentment or what I think is the passive aggressive equivalent of resentment – a cultivated forgetfulness of God.
Let us never be like those who eat their fill of what we never planted and forget the Lord.