The Wild and The Prejudiced
Opening Question: Have you ever seen someone mess up a good party? Or, someone mess up a good school project? What happened?
First Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7
Edith loved her doll house. When she first got the house, it was very plain. But, over time, she and her father decorated the house, added to it, and furnished it. When Edith placed her dolls in the house, it looked like one of those houses found in a magazine. The house was just perfect!
Then, her cousin Rachel came to visit. "Can I play with your dolls?" Rachel asked. Edith agreed. Then, there was a phone call for Edith. When Edith returned 10 minutes, her room was a mess, her dolls were everywhere, her precious doll house was broken in two places.
"What happened?" Edith gasped.
"I was just playing," Rachel said, as if nothing happened.
"Help me clean up!" Edith screamed at her cousin. Slowly they put all the dolls away. But Edith noticed Rachel didn't take care where she put the dolls. After a long talk on the dolls and how to put them away, Rachel finally treated the dolls with respect. When they turned to the doll house, Edith found it hard to fight back the tears. All that work and time, destroyed in a few moments. Edith realized Rachel was a wild person, someone played without a care. After they cleaned up as best they as they could, Edith took Rachel outside to play and act as wild as she wanted.
Like Edith, God worked with his people slowly, carefully. But, like Rachel, his people were wild. They messed up the good things God made for them: a good land, a peaceful way of life, and a good relationship with him. The people wanted to play their way. In the end, they learned the hard way only God can make someone happy. Only God.
Bridging Question: What is prejudice? Why is prejudice wrong?
Gospel: Matthew 21:28-32
Jesus said to the leaders of the Temple
Listen to another story about God's Kingdom. There was a businessman who planted a field of grapes. He built a wall around it with a look-out tower and dug a pit where grapes could be crushed to make juice. Then, he rented the field to farmers to grow the grapes and went home to another country.
When it was time to pick the ripe grapes, the businessman sent workers to receive his share from the farmers. But the farmers grabbed the workers. They beat one, threw stones at another, and killed a third. After that, the businessman sent more workers than he did the first time. The farmers treated these workers in the same way.
Finally, the businessman sent his son. 'The farmers will treat my son with respect,' the businessman thought to himself. When the farmers saw the son, however, they said to each other, 'This is the businessman's son. Let's kill him so we can take over his father's field of grapes." The farmers grabbed the son, threw him out of the field, and killed him.
"So, when the businessman returns, what will he do to the farmers?"Jesus asked the leaders.
The businessman will have those farmers judged harshly," they answered. "Then he will rent the field out to other farmers who will give him his share every time the grapes are ripe."
Jesus replied, "Haven't you read in the Bible:
The builders didn't want to use a stone
that became the most important one in the building.
The Lord did this.
It is wonderful!'?"
"So, God will take his Kingdom from you and give it to a people who will do his will."
Why did the farmers want to kill the businessman's workers and his son? It was more than selfishness. In the time of Jesus, rich businessmen from other countries would buy land in the land where Jesus lived. These foreigners would hire farmers to work the fields. The foreigners would pay the local farmers so little, the farmers could barely feed their families. The poor farmers starved, while the rich foreign owners got richer and richer. The farmers hated the businessmen for their selfishness. And they hated the businessmen because they were foreigners. The farmers were prejudiced.
Jose, David, and Chuck were friends, but they were all different. Jose was born in Venezuela and was Catholic. David was born in New York and was Jewish. Chuck was born in Chicago and was African-American. The boys were as close as friends could get. They played in school, after school, and on the weekends.
One day, the boys were riding their bikes by the railroad bridge. Suddenly, Chuck stopped, while the other boys rode on. Soon the others turned around to find their friend. As they rode up to Chuck, they saw he was fighting back the tears. The boys turned to see what Chuck saw. Words of prejudice against African Americans. Words of violence.
"Why do people hate?" Chuck asked. No one had an answer for Chuck.
That night, all three friends had the same discussion with their parents. Why did prejudice exist? The parents had the same answer. Prejudice begins when people won't talk to each other. They have a misunderstanding. The misunderstanding leads to anger. And anger leads to hate. When people hate and they forget about the misunderstanding, they have prejudice, hatred without reason. Prejudice can lead to violence.
That week, the boys talked a lot about the words of hate written on the railroad bridge. They came to an agreement. If the words were left up there, it might lead some to prejudice and violence. They knew what they had to do. The next weekend, the boys went with paint cans and brushes. After a few brush strokes, the words were gone.
"Thanks," Chuck said to the other boys. "This means a lot to me."
"Chuck," David said, "those words could have been pointed at any of us. I've seen words of hate against Jews and Hispanics. There are a lot of people with prejudice. We have to fight prejudice."
"Our paint was our way to fight the hate," Jose said.
As Jesus told the story of the farmers, he used their anger and prejudice against them. People who hate and use violence will be hated. And they will end in violence. Jesus wanted something better. He wanted people to do the right thing, like David, Chuck, and Jose. He wanted people to be friends and fight prejudice.
Closing Reflection: Pray for people who hate. Pray for your enemies. Pray all can become like one family some day.