Choosing between Adolescent Illusions or Adult Freedom

by Angela (Lambert) Jendro
fra-angelico-the-annunciation1

In the top left, Adam and Eve leaving the Garden after pridefully rejecting God for false illusions of freedom. In contrast, Mary humbly receives God at the Annunciation, finding true freedom in service.

October 8th,2017 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Matthew 21:33-43 NAB

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

Meditation Reflection:

Spiritual growth, like physical and emotional development, must move from childhood and adolescence to reach mature adulthood. As our Heavenly Father, the Lord patiently endures our annoying behaviors of immaturity and lovingly guides us into adulthood.  Unfortunately, just as some grown adults seem stuck in adolescent thinking and habits, so too many of us hold on to immature spiritual attitudes and resist the leadership of our Father, thus stunting our growth.

Weighed down by the effects of original sin, tempted by the Enemy and bolstered by our own pride, most often we substitute a false sense of entitlement and independence for rightful gratitude and obedience to God.  Like the teen who begins to think his parents owe him everything he desires, or defies their rules with a sense of superiority, we can get stuck in the trap of demanding God’s goodness while denying His Lordship.

Pope Benedict XVI relates this struggle to the original temptation of Adam and Eve, which he describes as a denial of their “creatureliness.”  Having grown accustomed to the paradisiacal gift of their existence and the beautiful Garden, the Enemy introduced the idea of entitlement and ingratitude.  Satan himself had refused to live in gratitude, preferring his own self-centered pride.

Called “the father of lies,” Satan lives in eternal anger at God who is reality itself (as revealed to Moses when He shared His Name – YHWH – “I AM”).  The Enemy prefers his Illusions of entitled independence to a life of gift.  However, illusions cannot satisfy but only leave us empty.

Angry at God, he tries to recruit others to his side.  He hates to see persons living in the joy of God’s love, therefore he proposed an alternative, distorted view of the Lord to Adam and Eve.    He suggested that their experience was not in fact paradisiacal, but rather quite impoverished.  To depend on God or obey His laws, he proposed, would be to accept slavery to a selfish and manipulative deity.  In truth Satan was the selfish, manipulative one with a god-complex, whereas the Lord had been nothing but generous and truthful with Adam and Eve.  Satan argued that contrary to their experience, freedom and happiness lay in rebellion rather than rightful relationship with the Lord.  Rather than rebuking the serpent for such hateful lies, they thought about the serpent’s words and chose to reject what they knew about God from experience for the false hope of a better life without God.

This same temptation infects each of us, their children, both from within our own rebellious hearts and the sly lies of the Enemy.  Jesus’ parable tells of God’s care for us, providing everything we need.  He rightly expects only His due, and yet we resist Him.

God blesses us with every good thing, but envy looks outward and turns back to God in complaint that we don’t have more. Every week that God blesses us with life, He asks only for one day in return.  Moreover, as our loving Father, He doesn’t even ask that the day be spent in chores but rather that we rest and spend time with Him and our family. Yet, how often do we complain that setting aside work to worship the Lord is burdensome!

Consider also our prayers of entreaty for God to provide – a job, a home, possibly a spouse and children.  We praise God for a short while when He bestows these gifts, but soon begin to complain about them.  Even worse, we easily forget that they were even gifts and delude ourselves that we have achieved them single-handedly.  Confident now in our own abilities we fall into the destructive cycle of always grasping for more, never satisfied and never at rest, spiritually alone; producing the hell-ish existence that Satan hoped for us.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.  James 1:16

Today’s Gospel reiterates the theme from each of the readings this past week, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” (Luke 10:11).  Christ has come and He invites every human person to relationship with Him.  We must make a choice and take responsibility for the consequences like adults.

Moreover, we must examine or attitude toward those whom Jesus has sent with His authority to bring God’s truth to us. Jesus told His apostles that “Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects Me. And whoever rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me(Luke 10:16). Jesus established the Church to preserve, protect, and promulgate His Word.  When we feel like characterizing the moral law or Church teaching as oppressive rather than freeing, we can remember from whom that lie comes.  We must decide if we trust God or tempting illusions.

Jesus invites us into mature relationship with the Lord.  He offers the freedom and dignity of spiritual adulthood through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Scripture, and the Church.  He even provides the grace to transform our hearts from weakness to strength, from selfishness to self-gift, and from illusions to Truth.

He asks each and every one of us today, “which do you choose”?

Consider:

  • Invite the Holy Spirit to guide you in a prayer of gratitude.   Ask Him to open your heart and mind, as you reflect on every good thing that comes from God.
  • Consider where envy, greed, or pride distorts your perception and causes discontentment to fester.   Reflect on the situation(s) from the perspective of Christ’s example.
    • Greed or Envy: The newest gadget is only an illusory pleasure, whereas union with Christ in prayer and sacraments yields deep abiding joy.
    • Pride: In the Kingdom of God, service and sacrifice rank highest rather than lowest.
  • Consider how an adult views freedom in contrast with an adolescent.  Do you trust God’s guidance to be freeing, or do your own judgment or worldly wisdom?
  • How is the Lord visiting you today?  What fruits is He asking for as produce of the gifts He has bestowed upon you?  How might you put your gifts more at the service of God and others?

Make a Resolution (Practical Application):

  • Make a list of each of God’s gifts in your life.
  • For each gift, offer one fruit a day for each back to God. For example:
    • Your Job:  Offer the fruit of Christian witness by refraining from vulgar language or joining in crude jokes.  Be truthful where you are tempted to lie or exaggerate.  Do one act of service for a co-worker.  Be joyful for the day and refrain from complaint.  Refuse to begin or join gossip.
    • Your Family:  Do one act of humble service for your spouse, children, or parents.  Combat taking your spouse or parents for granted by recognizing them with a word of thanks or deed of kindness, out of gratitude their contributions.

~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2017

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