March 5, 2021
by Joan Blandin Howard
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Second Week of Lent
Lectionary: 234

Genisis 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a
Psalm 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21
Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

Praying Lent

What Is Fasting and Abstinence?

Why Do I Make My Life So Busy?

Cooking Lent
Recipes for
all the Fridays of Lent and for Good Friday

To Give, to return ….

In today’s gospel, we hear about a “landowner” and his vineyard.  “…he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.” Apparently trusting them to respectfully care for it. “...vintage time grew near…he sent his servants to obtain his produce.” Long story short, the tenants did not want to give the landowner what was rightfully his. Seemingly, the tenants considered the vineyard rightfully theirs.

The challenge for me:  what is rightfully mine? Are my children rightfully mine?  Objects to receive or reject? Do I own them? After finding myself overwhelmed by our first baby, I came to appreciate all of our children as flowers in our garden. God invited me to accept the privilege to love and care for these gifts of God.  They were never intended to be mine to keep.  From then on, I never refer to the children in our care as mine. They are rightfully His, shared with us, so I say “our” children.  God, Jim and me.

Are my clothes mine?  I gaze at all the clothes in my closet. They are all mine!  Really?  I now think not. If not mine, then whose?

Some rightfully belonged to the old woman kneeling on the centuries old, cold, wobbly stone floor in the little church in a little village in France.  The ancient bent-over woman whose dirty callused feet were visible not only through the soles of her shapeless, well-worn, once black shoes but also through the holes in her once warm, black wool stockings.  What was left of her black knitted shawl, one most likely she knitted, was wrapped tightly around her head and shoulders, strands of white oily hair poking through. She touched my heart and soul.  Not with pity or guilt, but with an urgency to warm her and to give her what I thought she needed.  Decades later, I remember her vividly. “At Prayer”. I question: were the coat, hat and scarf I was wearing rightfully hers?  What else did she need that I could give, that I must return?

Letting go of possessions has not been easy for me.  Baby steps.

Sometimes I imagine a child thrilled with a sweater I knitted  and returned – loving it!  Makes me smile.  Makes me happy.  I imagine a woman wearing a favorite skirt or dress or coat.  I watch her admiring herself in a morror, feeling good about herself.  Not only did she need it for warmth, but for her self -esteem.  Now I do feel sad – how long have I had her coat?  All this time she has needed it.  I loved that coat!

In prayer and experiences I have been blessed with the joy, pain and sorrow that at times accompanies letting-go, giving, returning.  For me, it is no longer an experience of “sorting through” and “getting rid of”.  When I discover something somewhere that does not rightfully belong to me, I pray for the justice of heart to return it to its rightful owner.   

Is to receive…

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