27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In today’s first reading, Prophet Isaiah talks about “my friend” who has built a beautiful vineyard. This friend worked hard – worked with all his heart – to bring this vineyard to completion. Isaiah says, “he spaded, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest of vines.” Nevertheless, in spite of all this work and attention what did the vineyard yield? Wild grapes – that is, grapes not suited for fine wine.
The “friend” represents God and the “vineyard” represents Israel, the Chosen People of God. God’s vineyard, God’s people, is meant to produce wine that will lift up and intoxicate the whole world. It is a powerful and beautiful image! The spading and clearing and planting of the choicest vines represent all God’s work on behalf of his Chosen People. They represent all God’s effort and attempt to make it just and faithful and fruitful. However, Isaiah laments, “Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes.”
The wild grapes Isaiah is talking about stand for the infidelity of Israel. God has done everything for his Chosen People, and what does he receive in return? Unfaithfulness. The “wild grapes” stand for the individual and collective sins of the People of God – most especially the sin of idolatry.
All these images in the first reading are mirrored in today’s gospel reading. The gospel continues the theme of a landowner who built a beautiful vineyard and who took good care of it. The gospel parable gives this theme a little twist: When vintage time came, the landowner sent a series of servants to obtain his produce from his vineyard. But when his servants did this, the tenants beat, stoned and killed them. The servants represent the patriarchs and prophets God sent precisely to make his Chosen People fruitful.
Almost in desperation, the landowner finally sent his only son, convinced that, at least, they would respect him. Instead, “they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” This is, of course, a terrible foreshadowing of the Passion of the Christ.
Today’s readings pose a question: How are we tending God’s vineyard? We have received so much from God, but are we making the world fruitful? Are we responding to the Lord’s invitation with the works of mercy and compassion, of justice and peace, of respect and love?
Let me put it this way…Are we treating and tending our family as the Lord’s vineyard that produces the fruits of care and concern, of understanding and patience, communication and sensitivity, of forgiveness and reconciliation, of harmony and love? Are we treating and tending our workplace as the Lord’s vineyard that produces the fruits of honesty and responsibility, of hard-work and diligence, of initiative and cooperation? Are we treating and tending our business as the Lord’s vineyard that produces the fruits of justice and fairness, of valuing people and relationships than financial gains and profits? Are we treating and tending our parish as the Lord’s vineyard that produces the fruits of communion and mission, of ministry and service, of participation and involvement, of mission partnership and stewardship? Are we treating and tending our nation as the Lord’s vineyard that produces the fruits of goodness and righteousness, of dignity and decency, of commitment to the common good, of peace based on social justice, of total human development?
Or, fellow sinners, are we not more or less killing the messengers? Are we not silencing God’s voice within us (our conscience) by listening to the idols we have embraced in our lives? Are we not ignoring those who call us to sincere repentance, genuine conversion and constant renewal by tuning in to entertainments and distractions? Are we not killing the voice of the Spirit by preferring to listen to the voice of the world that has rejected God, and is promoting secularism and materialism, individualism and hedonism, egotism and self-seeking?
God is giving us every grace we need to make our lives fruitful and to make his vineyard he entrusted to us produce grapes suited for “good wine” that can intoxicate the world with God’s goodness and kindness, generosity and magnanimity, justice and peace, mercy and compassion, fellowship and love. We have the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, the source of our strength that enables us to live like Jesus and to work for Christ. We have the Word of God, the Scripture, that guides us how to tend the vineyard of the Lord. We have the Church, our Parish, that gives us all the opportunities to be fruitful by calling us to a life of personal involvement and active participation in the life and mission of the Lord Jesus. Are we working hard enough in the vineyard of the Lord?