08Oct 08 October. 27th Sunday in OT

The church is like a Vineyard, planted to produce fruit. We can grow to our full potential in the sunshine of God’s grace. But the vineyard can fall into disuse, or fail to produce  fruits of loving mercy. We pray that our lives may not be soured by bitterness or disillusionment.

1st Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7

Israel is the vineyard of God, meant to be fruitful in holiness

Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.
And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?
And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns
I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice, but saw bloodshed
righteousness, but heard a cry!

2nd Reading: Philippians 4:6-9

Our behaviour should be honourable, just and upright

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Gospel: Matthew 21:33-43

The master of the vineyard expects a good return from the tenants

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders: “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces its fruit.”

See Readings in the JB version,
Also  Sunday Readings in Irish.



Thought for the day

Kieran O’Mahony

The risk for Christians today is that we read the parable complacently, because it so clearly refers to Jews and Christians in the first century. But it is not only in the past that the leadership of God’s project has changed hands, so to speak. Down through history, more committed groups have challenged the established Church—they can attract by more exciting worship and by a closer living of the Gospel. The hard words of St Paul to the Gentile Christians in Rome may help to shake us up: For if God did not spare the natural branches, perhaps he will not spare you.(Rom 11:21)

For his exegetical comments on today’s readings, click here.

Cultivating our “Vineyard”

Our God is like an employer who trusts his workers to cooperate with his plans. Just as the landowner gave the tenants a fully-equipped vineyard in which to produce good fruit,  God creates the possibilities for work, fruitfulness and success for us too. He gives us opportunities and resources and trusts that we will make the most of them. Each one’s personal vineyard is completely unique. Do we realise how our lives are moulded and shaped by the grace of God? Do we recognize the opportunities and resources given to us? Have we experienced the freedom and trust that God gives us? Have we respond generously, or is our response at times more like that of the violent tenants ?

The first reading echoes this challenge. Isaiah’s neighbour owns a fertile hillside, he digs it, clears it of stones then plants it with the choicest vines, builds the traditional watchtower and installs the typical wine press. Naturally he is hoping for an excellent and abundant harvest. What he gets instead are wild grapes and thistles. The second half of the reading reflects  the indignation of unrequited love, the sense of a broken heart acting out in anger, an earthy, anthropomorphic image for the disappointment God feels in his people who refuse to act with compassion to the lowly and oppressed.

Injustice leads to desperation — The social background

The parables should be understood within the social context of their time. Jesus does not necessarily approve of what is done by the people in his stories. As John J Pilch observes(The Cultural World of Jesus Cycle A), today’s parable “reflects a reality familiar to all peasants, namely, the extortion practiced by hard-nosed absentee landowners. Modern scholars have pieced together bits and pieces of information to gain a better understanding of the situation of tenant farmers based on what is known about peasant free-holders, that is, peasants who were fortunate enough to own and farm their own land. Some of the crop would have to be used for trade to gain other necessities of life. There were also social dues (gifts), religious tithes, and taxes adding up to about 35 or 40%. About 20% of the annual produce would be left to feed the family and livestock of a free-holding peasant. Far less would be left to tenant farmers who also owed land rent.” In addition to this, in the story the landowner shows little concern for his servants/slaves and even for his own son and heir: he too in a different way is dispossessed. All are losers.

And yet the story describes reality, then and now. Injustice leads to desperation, desperation to violence, and violence to yet more violence. The more we have, the more we have to protect. There is a strong message here for society today, and for the church and its leaders. Who delivers the fruit?

With so much violence in the news, and such foreboding, warlike rhetoric in the stand-off concerning the United States and North Korea, we could feel overcome by the powers of hostility and evil. We really need Paul’s words of encouragement: “beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Religion in Crisis: bear fruit or wither

José Antonio Pagola

The parable of the murderous tenants is a sobering summary of God’s history with His chosen people. Their God has taken care of them from the beginning, with complete tenderness. They were his chosen vineyard, destined to become a “great light” for all peoples, a model society of justice and fidelity. Perversely,  one after another, that people rejected  the prophets God sent them to harvest the fruits of a better life. Finally, in an immense act of love, God sent His own Son. But the leaders of the people made an end of him.

What could God do with those who acted in such a blind and stubborn manner? Commentators have often interpreted this parable as simply identifying the Christian Church as «the new Israel» to follow the Jewish people that was dispersed throughout the world after Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. But the parable is also talking about us, and wants us to ask ourselves serious questions: Are we producing in our times “the fruits” that God expects of God’s people – justice for the excluded, solidarity, compassion toward those who suffer, forgiveness…

What if ours is a sterile Christianity from which God receives none of the expected fruits? What can God do with our mediocrity, our inconsistencies, our distractions, our little faith? If we don’t respond to God’s expectations, will the project of salvation pass over to other people who will produce fruits of justice and of love?

We talk about a «religious crisis», «de-Christianization», the abandonment of religious practice … But what if God is preparing the birth of a Church that will be less “powerful” but more evangelical, less numerous but more given to building a more human world? Are there new generations coming, who will be more faithful to God than ourselves?


One Response

  1. Kevin Walters

    “We talk about a «religious crisis»”,

    My response to an article on the parable, on another site
    “Jesus told the story of tenants who had forgotten who they were. Instead of acting like servants or collaborators with the owner, they decided that they should be the sole masters, beholden to no one, privileged to eliminate anyone who got in their way”

    I think that this is a very good point and simple put they forgot who they were meant to serve, we see the patience of our Father accumulating in the sending of His son but is that the end of the parable or does it point us to the on-going “great persecution”, of those who would obediently serve in His vineyard until the end of time.

    My response to another poster in defending the church
    The Church has the promise that evil will not overcome her and remains true in that she still proclaims the moral law, to all her children.
    His response
    “But what about when it is the church doing the evil? Clergy preying upon the weakest and most vulnerable, with bishops and popes protecting the predators so they can prey upon the flock for the weakest and most vulnerable, with bishops and popes protecting the predators so they can prey upon the flock for decades before being caught by secular authorities”…

    When the Church does not serve the Truth she colludes with evil, and your description “doing evil” is quite apt.
    I believe that there are many good men within the priesthood, far better men than myself, who have given all.
    To some degree we are all moulded (Conditioned) by our own personal experience of life and this moulding/conditioning also applies to those ensnared in Clericalism, definition; a policy of maintaining or increasing the power of a religious hierarchy.
    Please continue in my post @ 3 & 5 in the link

    “But what if God is preparing the birth of a Church that will be” truthful with herself.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ”

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