What are the things in life that you fear the most? I daresay that for many of us high on the list would be the fear of rejection. Isn’t that something that has pre-occupied you since you were a child and throughout all of the years that have followed?
Recall your early days as a child. Even as a tiny baby you screamed, shrieked and cried if you were not held, cuddled, kissed and loved by your mother and your father. As a child you craved to play with playmates and were miserable if they didn’t want to play with you. And when you were a teenager… well, words can’t begin to describe the pain and fear a teenager experiences when threatened by rejection.
If parents divorce, isn’t the primal fear and first thought of their children is that one or the other parent is rejecting them, particularly the parent who through divorce is forced to leave their home? In divorce kids imagine they’re being rejected even though it isn’t the case.
Sometimes we’re so obsessed with the fear of rejection that we treat others badly. We treat them as if we were already rejected. Then, because we’re so sulky and isolating, they quite naturally don’t want to be around us.
And then there’s that horrible experience of rejection when a parent is confronted by a son or daughter who is on dope or alcohol, who’s running around, who’s hardly ever at home except to eat, get cleaned up, and then leave again. Parents feel like their love and care was meaningless.
With all of the rejection we give each other, and in the midst of all of the rejection we ourselves experience, do we ever stop and consider how God has been hurt by our rejection of His love for us? Just before He entered Jerusalem for the last time Jesus presented His disciples with today’s parable (Mt 21:33-43). Singing their hosannas the crowds were about to spread palms in front of him. Shortly He would go up on the Mount of Olives there to weep and cry out in pain as He looked out over Jerusalem and cried:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you refused!”
Then they crucified him.
We don’t like to admit it, but many times we reject God. Oh, we like to deny that, but in fact we do. How many times would we rather not be bothered by God? How many people act as if God simply doesn’t matter? How many times does His still, inner voice call us to do thus-and-such and we refuse to listen to His whispered call within us.
Then there is the matter of rejecting God’s forgiveness. We’re simply ignorant of the horrific sin that it is slapping God in the face by declaring that God, God’s love, God’s forgiveness, simply don’t matter… that we can’t be bothered with God.
How many people do we know that should be here with us at Mass but are not because they can’t be bothered, because they have more important things to do than to receive God’s love.
The sin against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable because that sin consists in telling God that He is unimportant, that He makes no difference to us and is only a marginal part of our lives, if indeed He has any part at all in our lives.
The pain of rejection is horrible. That pain is made crystal clear and perfectly evident when we take a good look at the crucifix and understand its profound message, namely our rejection of God’s love for us in His human form. That’s why there’s a human body hanging on it. It’s not an empty cross, it’s a cross loaded to the full with rejection, the worst kind of pain that any of us can ever experience, God nailed and immobilized because we won’t listen to him.
There’s no defense against rejection. No words can deal with rejection. There’s nothing we can do against it, which is perhaps why Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the personification of human judgment and rejection, and stood there in complete silence. Words simply cannot deal with the reality of rejection. Nothing can.
The parable we just heard is not just a parable about us. It is, rather, a glimpse into God’s heart. It tells us about how He feels, the hurt and pain He experiences at our hands.
During Good Friday services it was once common to hear the Reproaches. They were words placed in the mouth of God and directed at us. Perhaps you may remember them:
My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me! I led you out of Egypt; but you led your Savior to the Cross. For forty years I led you safely through the desert, I fed you with manna from heaven, and brought you to the land of plenty; But you led your Savior to the Cross. O, My people! What have I done to you that you should testify against me?
One may wonder whether or not God can suffer. It seems to me that He does. Christ Jesus, God the Son made human for us, certainly did. And nothing caused Him more pain than our rejection of Him.
So when you are feeling rejection, and when the fear of rejection is overpowering within you, give some time to being alone with Christ. He’s here in the tabernacle for you all of the time. He’s here in the Mass. He’s here in the Blessed Sacrament. He’s here in His house waiting for you to come and visit Him. Why not pay Him a visit from time to time? Why not come here and spend some time with Him? He’d love that, you know. He’d love to have someone come and give Him some time alone with Him, along with some words of love for Him. He knows rejection, and in His infinite love and caring for us, He gives us His power to overcome rejection and know what it is to love and be loved in return.