By Father Francois Beyrouti Sometimes we are impressed with fancy clothes like who designed that dress or suit or how much it cost, sometimes with celebrities and what they are doing, regardless of how insignificant it is, sometimes with wealth and possessions like bigger homes and expensive cars, sometimes with intelligence and how much we know, sometimes we are impressed with how we or others look, and sometimes we are impressed with our jobs or positions of authority or power.
We all have things that impress us, but the real question is how valuable are those things that impress us. The most stylish dress or suit looks old fashioned within a year, our role model celebrities cannot maintain a relationship with their husband or wife and frequently act in ways that show that they are not role models at all, and bigger homes and fancier cars are sometimes just another source of larger debt that some cannot afford, intelligence disappears as memory loss kicks in and even at its height is very limited, how we look easily deteriorates when we’re sick, and jobs and positions of authority or power can be lost very easily.
This shows us that although we spend a lot of time, money, and energy being impressed either with ourselves or things around us we are often impressed with the wrong things. It is great to dress well, but how important is what we are wearing if we only wear it for a few hours once or twice, then move on to something else? How important is our intelligence when all we know is a very small amount of all that can be known? How important are celebrities who entertain us with their crazy lives are but provide us with no inspiration to live a better life. Unfortunately, we sometimes treat things that only have temporary importance as if they have eternal importance.
A remedy to all this is not to stop being impressed by the many things around us, but to be more impressed with the right things. We should indeed be dazzled and impressed with everything around us like clothes, money, possessions, intelligence, and positions, but we should also keep in mind that these only bring us limited joy. These will go out of style or fall apart and we will have nothing left if we do not have anything in our lives that is both impressive and also long lasting. If all these should only bring us limited enjoyment, then what should we be impressed with that is more long lasting?
In the book of the prophet Jeremiah we read: “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches;  but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the LORD.’ ” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
Unfortunately, we are often overly impressed with the wrong things.
Today’s parable speaks to us about how often we are not impressed with gifts that God gives us. Jesus makes this point by using the story of a landowner who put great energy, resources, and money into planting a vineyard. This was supposed to be a very impressive vineyard that should have produced more and higher quality grapes than any other vineyard. However, instead of keeping the vineyard for himself the landowner leased it out. What should have been his to enjoy by himself he gave to others to enjoy with him and what should have been his to benefit from entirely he shared with others so that they can get most of the fruit. He was happy to get only a small amount of what this vineyard produced.
We might say, this story does not apply to us because no one has given us a vineyard. However, this story is not just about a vineyard, grapes, and wine, it is about how impressed we are with the gifts that God has given us. The people who took the vineyard wanted it all for themselves. They were impressed with the fruits of the vineyard but were not impressed with the one who gave it to them. They did not want to recognize that it was given to them already planted and in perfect condition. When the grapes grew they forgot how hard the owner worked and they felt that all the fruit of the vineyard was theirs and theirs alone. They were indeed impressed, but they were impressed with the wrong thing.
Some of the stories Jesus told are called parables. These parables are intended to teach us something about ourselves and to encourage us to ask ourselves some tough questions. We are living in a very prosperous country. For the most part we are like those who received the vineyard from the owner. The vineyard is given to us to take care of and to share with the owner and with others its fruit. But what have we done with what God has given us? Do we use our skills, talents, wealth, resources, intelligence, and positions for ourselves or do we use them to serve others and to glorify God who gave them to us?
As we reflect on this parable that Jesus told, we can also reflect on all that has God given us? What talents has God given us? What skills has God given us? What resources has God given us? If we sit down and reflect on all that God has given us we realize that often we are impressed with ourselves for having these gifts rather than being impressed with God who gave them to us.
Everything we have only has a meaning when we use it to glorify God. If what we are impressed with will deteriorate, if what we are impressed with we use to show off and to make others feel bad, if what we are impressed with is harmful for ourselves and those around us, then we are impressed with the wrong things.
It is good to be impressed with the things around us, but it is much more important to be impressed with using those things for our good and the good of others. Worldly possessions impress us but will soon disappear, but being impressed with God helps us to focus on a relationship that makes us much better men and women.
Psalm 146 reminds us: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help.  When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish.  Happy is he whose help is from God.” (Psalm 146:3-5).
Before we are impressed with ourselves and the things we can acquire let us be impressed with God who gave us health and intelligence to achieve them so that we can put them to good use.
I’d like to close with a story:
A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son. About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. He said, ‘Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly... He often talked about you, and your love for art.’ The young man held out this package. ‘I know this isn’t much. I’m not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.’
The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. ‘Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It’s a gift.’
The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.
The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection. On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. 'We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?'
There was silence... Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, ‘We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one.’ But the auctioneer persisted. ‘Will somebody bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?’ Another voice angrily: ‘We didn’t come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Gogh’s, the Rembrandts. Get on with the Real bids!’ But still the auctioneer continued: The son! The son! Who’ll take the son?’ Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. ‘I’ll give $10 for the painting...’ Being a poor man, it was all he could afford. ‘We have $10, who will bid $20?’ ‘Give it to him for $10. Let’s see the masters.’ The crowd was becoming angry. They didn’t want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. The auctioneer pounded the gavel. ‘Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!’
A man sitting on the second row shouted, ‘Now let’s get on with the collection!’ The auctioneer laid down his gavel. ‘I’m sorry, the auction is over.’ ‘What about the paintings?’ ‘I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will... I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!’
So what impresses you more, the famous artists who are all dead and their paintings that will eventually fade and fall apart, or the hard work and sacrifice of the son that will never get old, wear out, or lose its eternal value?