VATICAN CITY – On Sunday Pope Francis said the new and unique perspective offered by Christianity is an attitude of love, rather than revenge, which God continues to adopt even in the face of our sins and errors.
“Here is the great novelty of Christianity: a God who, though disappointed by our sins and our errors, does not go back on his word, he does not stop and above all does not take revenge!” the Pope said Oct. 8.
“God loves, he doesn’t take revenge! He loves, and waits to forgive us,” Francis said, explaining that like the Israelites in salvation history, God calls each of us to form a relationship, an alliance, with him.
And “the urgency of responding with good fruits to the call of the Lord, who calls us to become his vineyard, helps us to understand what is new and unique in Christianity,” he said.
“This is not so much the sum of prescripts and moral norms, but it is first of all a proposal of love that God, through Jesus, made and continues to make through humanity,” he said. “It’s an invitation to enter this story of love, becoming a living and open vine, rich in fruit and hope for all.”
Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address, which he centered on the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew that recounts how the master of a vineyard hires tenants to oversee it.
However, the tenants mistreat and kill his servants when the master sends them to collect the fruits. The tenants, Francis said, “assume a possessive attitude: they don’t consider themselves simple managers, but owners,” and refuse to hand over the crop. Even when the master sends his son, the tenants kill him in hopes of taking the son’s inheritance.
In his speech, the pope noted that this parable offered by Jesus illustrates in “an allegorical way” the warnings and rebukes given by the prophets in the history of Israel.
This is also a story that belongs to us, he said, because it speaks of the alliance God wanted to establish with humanity, and which he also calls each of us to participate in. However, like any “love story,” this history of alliance with God “has its positive moments, but it is also marked by betrayals and refusals.”
To understand how God responds to the refusals opposed to his love and his proposed alliance, the Gospel passage puts forth the question on the lips of the master: “What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
Both this question and Jesus’ response about the stone rejected by the builders becoming the “cornerstone” of a new foundation, Francis said, highlight “that God’s disappointment for the wicked behavior of mankind is not the last word!
“Through the ‘discarded stones’ – and Christ is the first stone that the builders rejected – through situations of weakness and sin, God continues to circulate the ‘new wine’ of his vineyard, which is mercy,” he said.
And the only thing that can impede the “tenacious and tender” will of God, he said, is “arrogance and presumption, which at times even become violence!”
Faced with these attitudes, rather than going back on his promise, God “retains all his power to rebuke and admonish,” telling the arrogant and presumptuous that “the Kingdom of God will be taken from you, and it will be given to a people that will bear fruit.”
We too are invited to become part of God’s vineyard and to bear good fruit, Francis said, but stressed that in order to do so, we must be open.
“A vine that is closed can become wild and produce wild grapes,” he said. “We are called to go out of the vineyard and put ourselves at the service of our brothers who are not with us, to shake up and encourage each other, to remind each other that we must be the vine of the Lord in every environment, even the most distant and uncomfortable.”
The pope closed his address asking for Mary’s intercession in helping each of us “to be everywhere, especially on the peripheries of society, the vine that the Lord has planted for the good of all.”