BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas

Mt. 21:33-43
This Sunday, let us reflect on the conduct of business. The parable of the vineyard is, after all, talking about business. At the time of Jesus, there were no huge commercial buildings and manufacturing corporations. What the people had then were vast tracts of agricultural lands, such as vineyards. Having a large vineyard means big business.

Nowadays we all are aware that business is not good, even in affluent countries such as Europe and America. The entire world is undergoing global economic crisis. Big economies are in severe financial troubles. Perhaps we can relate the Gospel lesson with the concrete economic situation of the world.

Let us take America as a case in point. I am sure the lessons will also be applicable to other countries as well. God has abundantly blessed America with many and varied gifts: freedom, the Christian faith, democracy, natural and human resources and the values of honesty and hard work. In grateful acknowledgement of this truth, the forefathers of this nation have engraved the words “In God We Trust” on the mighty American dollar. We can rightly say that this land is the beloved vineyard of the Lord.

But why is this vineyard becoming fruitless and barren? The number of good jobs continues to decline, more stores are closing, incomes continue to go down, credit card debt and student loan debt are soaring, the housing market is down, the number of Americans living in poverty continues to rise and government debt is at unprecedented levels. We now miss the products marked “Made in USA”. Almost all the products found in the market, from household items and garments to machineries and computers are “Made in China.” What is happening to America, the biggest economy in the world?

The parable mentions several important reasons. First, the walls are gone. These walls are supposed to keep rapacious wolves and animals away from the vineyard. Such are the negative effects of free trade and globalization that have taken down the protective walls of this country, and made itself open and vulnerable to the unmitigated influx of criminal and immoral activities in the economy.

Second, the wine press or vat is gone. It is built inside the walls of the vineyard so that at vintage time the pressing of the grapes will be done within its walls. And again, invoking globalization and succumbing to the desire for more profits, big business corporations opted to close their domestic operations and outsourced their production to China and other countries outside the US for much cheaper labor and windfall profits. This resulted in huge capital flight and loss of jobs to millions of American workers. The rise in unemployment further weakened the people’s buying capacity, consequently resulting in the steep drop in sales of products and services.

Third, the watchtower is also gone. It was put up as the guardhouse of the vineyard so that any danger will be averted. But unbridled capitalism and corporate greed have eradicated all administrative safeguards and monitoring systems, again in the guise of free trade. This was one major factor in the Wall Street disaster a few years ago.

And fourth, the tenants, blinded by greed and selfishness, chose to turn against the owner of the vineyard, killing his servants and even his own son. God is still the owner of all that we are and all that we have. We are only His tenants and we are expected to give an accounting of our stewardship to Him in the end. Unfortunately, many people willfully ignore this, blinded as they are by the insatiable desire for worldly wealth and power.

St. Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians, said, “Their end is destruction! Their god is their stomach; their glory is in their ‘shame’. Their minds are occupied with earthly things” (Phil 3:19). Obviously, the cause of all the troubles that the world undergoes now is man’s selfishness and greed.

The words “In God We Trust” may as well become “In Gold We Trust”! Many people trust more in their money and gold, than in God. And worse, there are those who are bent on eradicating God from the Constitution, from the schools and from all public places. These are systematic attempts to erase God from society! This is what is truly frightening, for we all know there is no real freedom and success without God! The late President Ronald Reagan warned, “If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”

The Gospel this Sunday invites us to bring back the true meaning of business, that is, business as usual, business as it should be. The letters of the word “business” give us important lessons. In “business”, it is not all about the “I”; rather, “U” and “I” are in it. In fact, the “U” comes before the “I”, and the “I” is silent. And finally, the “U” is pronounced as “I”. In other words, in dealing with business, we should be concerned about the welfare of the others. In the end, we also benefit from serving others. Ignoring these lessons, as what is happening nowadays, will invariably result in severe injustice and more human misery.

And so in this Mass, let us resolve to observe the real purpose of business. Let us renew our loyalty and obedience to God in all our human endeavors. Let us acknowledge that we are simply his tenants; he is still the owner of the vineyard. May the words “In God We Trust” be forever engraved in our hearts and in the entire human society.

Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422

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