Whom Do We Respect?

Friday of Week 2 in Lent

Gen. 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28 & Mt. 21:33-43, 45-46

A lack of respect is the theme in both today's readings. In one a young man is rejected and ill-treated by his own brothers; in the other servants turn against their landlord.

It was jealousy on the part of Joseph’s brothers which drove them to attack him. If their father had not shown him favouritism they might never have acted as they did. Perhaps they did not have Joseph's charm or intelligence, but they still deserved to be respected as individuals. If they were not shown respect, how could they learn to respect other people?

The meaning of Jesus' parable must have been very clear to the chief priests and elders. They would have understood that the vineyard represents Israel, the owner is God, and the servants are the prophets. When the people of Israel failed to respond to the message of the prophets God sent His Son, but they did not respect Him just as they had not respected the prophets.

It was plain that the tenant farmers in the parable had no sense of self-respect. Their pledge meant nothing. When a person can break a promise, it is obvious that he or she has lost respect for themselves. Then it will only be a question of time before others lose their respect for them, too, for how can someone whose word is worthless be respected? Self-respect is one of life's most priceless possessions. If we have it, we should hold on to it at all costs. If we have lost it, we must do all we can to regain it.

It was obvious that the tenant farmers had no respect for the rights of others. It made no difference to them that the landowner had planted that vineyard, investing his time and money to make it productive. All they cared about was what they wanted for themselves, even if that involved stealing another's property or taking a person's life. How often this is repeated when we read of gunmen going into a store and shooting a shop assistant, to steal just a few pounds from the till. It is hard to believe that anyone can place so little value on a human life but that is what happens when people lose all respect for the rights of others.

The Jewish leaders, identifying themselves with the tenant farmers, must have felt uncomfortable. The most important point of the story was aimed at them. For Jesus was telling them that they had no respect for God: they had failed to act on the teaching of the prophets of old; they had not understood the Scriptures; they had ignored John the Baptist, the greatest prophet of their own time, and now they were in danger of rejecting Jesus Himself, the Son of God who had come to bring them back to the Father.

Although we do not reject Jesus, are we guilty of a lack of respect for Him? Do we forget His name should only be used in love and prayer, and sometimes use it as an expletive? When we come into church do we always show reverence for His presence in the Blessed Sacrament? Is enough attention given by us to His words in the scriptures? Thomas Carlyle once said, “Show me the man you honour, and I will show you the man you will become.” Whom do we respect? I trust it is Jesus.

Holy Spirit, inspire us every day to learn more about Jesus, to look up to Him more often and to honour Him as we should. Then we will gain a deeper respect for Him, for ourselves and for others.