Pastoral Letter to Brothers and Sisters in the Yap State



Vicariate of Yap Office  

P.O. Box  A,  Yap, FM 96943       Telephone:  350-7273

March 1, 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Yap Day was a wonderful celebration of Yapese and Outer Island Culture.  We saw local dances, tasted local food, and watched exhibitions of local skills.  This was a time to celebrate your unique identity and traditions.

Yet we should not let the beauty and joy of Yap Day make us deaf to the Word of God.  Especially when difficult, the Word of God cannot be silenced or wished away.  The Gospel reading for March 1st, Yap Day, was an unmistakable challenge to you, the people of Yap, to care for what has been entrusted to you.

The Gospel reading was Matt 21:33-43, 45-46, the Parable of the Tenants. In the parable, a vineyard owner goes on a journey and entrusts his vineyard to tenants.  They are to care for the vineyard and return a bountiful harvest to the vineyard owner.  When the vineyard owner wants his produce, however, the tenants beat his messengers and kill his son.  When the vineyard owner returns, he puts those tenants to death and gives the vineyard to someone else.

In the parable, God is the vineyard owner and the Pharisees and scribes are the tenants.  They are entrusted with the vineyard, Israel.  For Jesus’s audience, the parable meant that the vineyard, Israel, will be taken from the Pharisees and given to Jesus’s followers.

Yet any parable is meant to be entered into from our own situation so it can shed light on our own place and time — so it is with this parable.  Let me suggest the following.

Perhaps the beautiful state of Yap is the vineyard.  You all are the tenants.  This beautiful piece of heaven has been entrusted to all of you by God.  It isn’t really yours – it is God’s.  He is only loaning it to you.  It is up to you to care for it and to do something beautiful with it.  Whatever you do with it must in some way be pleasing to God.

A vineyard is something that bears fruit year after year.  It can bear fruit year in and year out because it is cared for, protected and nourished.  So it is with Yap.  It is place to be nourished, cared for and protected for your benefit and because God trusts you to care for it.  If you care for the vineyard properly, it will sustain you forever.

What do the tenants do wrong in the parable?  Basically, they try to turn the vineyard into their own property and consume it.  They want to devour it for themselves.  Nothing is to be returned to vineyard owner.  They kill his son and try to keep the vineyard for themselves.

But they can never control the vineyard, because it belongs to God.  They do not even become rich; in their greed they lose everything and are destroyed by the vineyard owner.  They simply cease to exist.

In the parable, God did not give the vineyard to the tenants so they can give it to someone else.  That would be the worst violation of God’s trust.  If God wanted to give the vineyard to other tenants, he would have done that from the beginning.  If you read your Bible carefully, God entrusts certain people to care for certain pieces of land.  For this reason, the Canaanites were chased out of the Promised Land – God had given that land to the Hebrew people.

My brothers and sisters, God is not going to take the vineyard away from you.  But it is very possible you will lose the vineyard.  The vineyard may go to someone else, not because of God’s doing, but because you will give it away.  And if you lose the vineyard, you will lose yourselves as a people.

The vineyard may go to someone else, not because of God’s doing, but because of your decisions.  Everyone will bear the consequences.

Signing an agreement that you do not understand is wrong.  This act is a terrible failure to care for the vineyard and your fellow tenants.  You will likely sign away important rights forever.

Signing an agreement that provides you significant income today, but guarantees little income for future generations is wrong.  What seems like a lot of money today will be precious little money one hundred years from now after inflation.

Signing an agreement that future generations of Yapese cannot terminate deprives them of the power to control their land and their destiny.  Without the ability to terminate an agreement, they have no leverage to negotiate future agreements and will be open for exploitation.

Signing an agreement that allows others to do whatever they want with the vineyard is the same as giving up your responsibility for it.  The other party may not care for the vineyard in the way God intended you to care for it.

These thoughts are the fruit of my prayer.  For me, the parable can mean nothing else.  But a parable is something you have to pray about yourself.  So I leave that job – prayer and reflection – in your hands.  Ponder the parable yourself.  It is God’s word for you after all.

My brothers and sisters, your legitimate aspirations for development can be fulfilled while caring for the vineyard and its future tenants.  Patience, planning, wisdom and a sense of what is good for future generations of Yapese is needed.  I urge you to care for the vineyard that God has entrusted to you.

Yours in Christ,

Father John Mulreany, SJ

Acting Vicar of Yap

March 1, 2013, Yap Day

Please click the image for an enlarged view.

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