Tobit 1:3, 2:1-8

I, Tobit, have walked in paths of truth and in good works all the days of my life. I have given much in alms to my brothers and fellow countrymen, exiled like me to Nineveh in the country of Assyria.

At our feast of Pentecost (the feast of Weeks) there was a good dinner. I took my place for the meal; the table was brought to me and various dishes were brought. Then I said to my son Tobias, “Go, my child, and seek out some poor, loyal-hearted man among our brothers in exile in Nineveh, and bring him to share my meal. I will wait until you come back, my child.” So Tobias went out to look for some poor man among our brothers, but he came back again and said, “Father!” I answered, “What is it, my child?” He went on, “Father, one of our nation has jut been murdered; he has been strangled and then thrown down in the market place; he is there still.” I sprang up at once, left my meal untouched, took the man from the market place and laid him in one of my rooms, waiting until sunset to bury him. I came in again and washed myself and ate my bread in sorrow, remembering the words of the prophet Amos concerning Bethel:

Your feasts will be turned to mourning,
and all your songs to lamentation.

And I wept. When the sun was down, I went and dug a grave and buried him. My neighbours laughed and said, “See! He is not afraid any more.” (You must remember that a price had been set on my heard earlier for this very thing.) “The time before this he had to flee, yet here he is, beginning to bury the dead again.”

Mark 12:1-12

Jesus began to speak to the chief priests, the scribes and the elders in parables, “A man planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug out a trough for the winepress and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce from the vineyard. But they seized the man, thrashed him and sent him away empty-handed. Next he sent another servant to them; him they beat about the head and treated shamefully. And he sent another and him they killed; then a number of others, and they thrashed some and killed the rest. He had still someone left: his beloved son. he sent him to them last of all. “They will respect my son,” he said. But those tenants said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they seized him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. Now what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and make an end to the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this text of scripture:

It was the stone rejected by the builders
that became the keystone.
This was the Lord’s doing
and it is wonderful to see”?

And the would have liked to arrest him, because they realised that the parable was aimed at them, but they were afraid of the crowds. So they left him alone and went away.

Why do we do good things? Do we do good things because we fear the Lord and want to avoid punishment? Or do we do good things because we know that good things will please the Lord? Very often, how we have been brought up as children will give us a clue as to how we relate to God.

I once watched my cousin discipline her hyperactive kid. She said to her, “Listen carefully. If this goes on, you are going to end up doing something and Mummy will not be happy. Be a good girl and Mummy will be happy, understand?”

Another mother would probably have said something like, “If you don’t be a good girl, Mummy is going to hammer you.”

Noting these two styles of parenting, we can see two different ways in which we relate to God. The first way of relating to God ends up with us doing good things and avoiding bad things because we know that doing good things will make God happy, and doing bad things will make God sad.

The second way of relating to God ends up with us doing good things because we don’t want to be punished, and that when we do bad things we will be sent to hell.

In the first reading, we see clearly that Tobit relates to God in the first way. He does not do good things to avoid punishment, but does them because he knows this is pleasing to God. In the gospel reading, the Pharisees, scribes and elders of the people relate to God in the second way. They see him as a punishing God who doesn’t let them off when they do bad things. And they react to Jesus in the same way.

The way we relate to God affects how we relate to other people. If we have the second way of relating to God, then when other people do bad things to us, we will respond in kind. We will punish them with whatever authority we have, or think we have. We will “send them to hell” or tell them that God will send them to hell for doing bad things to us. This kind of perception of a self-righteous God creates self-righteous people.

However, if we have a perception of God who gives us the freedom to do good things or bad things without punishment from him; if we have a God who is friends with us, then we will grow to become loyal to that friendship. We will consequently become proud of God and want to introduce him to other people.

Let us pray for all Christians that we might come to know Jesus as a friend, grow in loyalty to this friendship, become proud that he is our friend, and introduce him to others. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Friendship with Jesus.

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