THEME: THE VINEYARD OF THE LORD
READINGS: Isaiah 5:1-7 / Psalm 80 / Philippians 4:6-9 / Matthew 21:33-43
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
‘The vineyard of the Lord is the House of Israel’ (Response to today’s Psalm). So important is the vine or vineyard to Israel that King David made it the subject of one of his hymns (Psalm 80). The importance of the vine to the Israelites is also expressed in the parable told by the prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading (Isaiah 5:1-7). Subsequently, several prophets of old used the imagery of the vine to deliver God’s message to God’s people. For example:
- Jeremiah says: ‘Yet I planted you a choice vine’ ( 2:21);
- Ezekiel 15 says Israel is like a vine (cf. Ezekiel 19:10); and
- Hosea says: ‘Israel is a luxuriant vine’ (Hosea 10:1).
The importance of the vine or vineyard was not lost on the writers of the New Testament. For instance, in the fifteen chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, Jesus expresses our relationship with Him and His Father by using the vine, its branches and the vinegrower: ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower…. I am the vine, you are the branches’ (John 15:1,5). Then, in today’s gospel reading (Matt. 21:22-43), Jesus tells us the parable of a vineyard’s owner, his tenants, his servants as well as his own son. Indeed, so important was the vine to Israel that, according to historians, there was a great golden image of the vine in the Jerusalem Temple.
Now, while in today’s first reading, Isaiah presents Israel as the vineyard of the Lord that did not bear the good fruits that the Lord expected, in the gospel reading, Jesus’ focus is on the farmers (the religious leaders) of the vineyard of the Lord who did not take care of Israel to bear good fruits but rather killed the prophets and were about to kill Him (the Son of the owner of the vineyard).
Let us pluck two main lessons:
- All Christians (the new Israel) are the new vineyard of the Lord.
- Christian leaders are the cultivators or hired farmers of the new vineyard of the Lord.
TO ALL CHRISTIANS
A good farmer invests so much in his land: ensures that the soil is fertile, clears the ground, ploughs it, secures good seeds and sows them, tills the soil, waters the seeds and plants, weeds around them, drives away invading animals including birds, etc. After such great investment of effort, time, money, etc., the farmer expects good harvest. Similarly, the Lord has invested a lot in us. Mostly importantly, God has invested the life of His divine Son in us by His incarnation, life, suffering, death and resurrection. In addition, God provides for our physical and spiritual nourishments, protects us, directs us with His Word, etc. Having thus invested in us, God, like the vineyard owner, expects good returns from us.
WHAT GOD EXPECTS:
After the Lord has made such provisions for us, He expects good grapes (not sour grapes). The good grapes include:
- Faith in and love of the Lord as the only Living God;
- Obedience to His commandments;
- Being prayerful; and
- Participating in communal worship.
Furthermore, just as the grapes have to be crashed to produce wine, so God expects us to go through the crashing processes (difficulties and challenges) of life by which we are transformed into better Christians.
TO CHRISTIAN LEADERS
Like the owner of the vineyard mentioned in the gospel reading, the Lord expects from Christian leaders accountability for the Christians entrusted to them. This entails, among others:
- The proclamation of the true Word of God in season and out of season;
- The administration of the sacraments;
- Directing individuals and the community as a whole along the right path, while warning those on the wrong path to return to the Lord; and
- Being models of good deeds and prayer.
Beloved, let us pray that God will always be pleased with the grapes we produce; and that every challenge or difficulty will transform us into the best wine that delights the Lord. Finally, we pray that all Christian leaders will always strive to meet the Lord’s standards of accountability as they serve their respective communities. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis