Sunday Sermon for October 8, 2017, the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Is 5:1-7; Phil 4:6-9; Mt 21:33-43
In the first reading today we hear the song Isaiah singss about his friend who had a vineyard. The friend did everything right and put only the finest grapes in his vineyard. However, when he went to harvest the grapes, the vineyard produced wild grapes instead of the choice grapes he was seeking.
Isaiah goes on to say that his friend decided to make the vineyard a ruin: to take away the protective hedge and wall, allow the vineyard to be trampled, allow the weeds to grow and the animals to graze. The friend, Isaiah reveals is God and the vineyard is Israel.
When our Lord came into the world he came for the lost children of the House of Israel. While many from Israel accepted His message, we know from St. Paul that many also rejected the message. Consequently, the Apostles, led by the Holy Spirit, began preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles where they found a great reception.
When we consider the implications of the failure of the Chosen People to provide God with the judgment and justice He was seeking, we find two things. On the positive side, the Gentiles were brought into the Covenant so that they, too, could bear fruit and participate in the life of God with the Jewish people. The negative side, however, is one that we see repeatedly throughout the Old Testament: it was a rejection of God.
In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells a parable about the vineyard and the tenants who were to provide the owner of the vineyard with his share of the grapes. They not only failed to provide the grapes, but they also killed the servants the owner sent to obtain the produce. The point, of course, is that the Jewish people did not produce what God had expected from them and they also killed the Prophets the Lord sent to them.
Now, as we hear in the same parable, God sent His Son, but the tenants thought that by killing the Son, they would get His inheritance. Indeed, there is some truth in this, but it is not a guarantee. Instead, our Lord Himself became the vine and invited everyone to be grafted on to this vine as a branch. However, we are not merely to produce nice looking foliage, we are to produce fruit.
St. Paul says that the mystery that was hidden even from the Angels, but was now revealed through the Church is that the Gentiles are co-heirs with the Jews and members of the same body. So, we see that the vineyard is not completely ruined; there is one hearty vine growing in that vineyard and, with the wall and hedge removed, the vineyard has gone beyond the boundaries of Israel to envelope the whole world.
Through baptism we have been grafted onto this vine and, when we are in the State of Grace, we receive the life from the vine so that we can produce fruit that is supernatural. What does this fruit look like?
In the second reading St. Paul says that if we make our requests known to God in prayer and petition and without anxiety, then the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. At the same time, he tells us to think about what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and praiseworthy. These things, coupled with living a holy life, will bring the peace of God to us.
If our minds and hearts are at peace because they are filled with the things of God, then we will be able to bear the spiritual fruit He is seeking from us. If, on the other hand, we focus on ourselves, materialism, worldliness, pleasures, or whatever else leads us away from God, then we will fail to bear fruit.
We certainly know what we should be doing, but Jesus was and still is the stone rejected by the builders. He is not accepted in the world, and even by some within the Church. Many claim to accept Jesus, but they only want Him on their terms. In many ways these people have it backwards: they are seeking what they can get from Jesus rather than seeking to bear fruit for Him.
Even though our Lord is still being rejected, seemingly from every direction, He is and will always be, the cornerstone laid by God Himself. Building on any other stone will result in a collapse just as grafting onto any other vine will produce only wild grapes. We now have to choose whether or not we want to be part of Him Who has been rejected or if we want to be part of something else. Choose Christ and bear fruit for God in the vineyard of the Lord!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.