[Reflection on The Word] Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Isaiah 5:1-7 / Psalm 80/Phil 4:6-9/ Matthew 21:33-43
Theme: You are that Vineyard
Today’s liturgy reminds us that each one of us is the vineyard of the Lord. We cannot afford but to bear useful fruits. Jesus begins anew with each and every one of us no matter our unfruitfulness and the unfaithfulness of His shepherds. He does not destroy the vineyard; he will not. He remains the Good Shepherd who does not live His flock untended.
The first reading forms part of the section of the prophet Isaiah called Proto- Isaiah or first Isaiah (chapter 1-39). It has been labeled as the book of judgment. In this book, God pronounces judgment on his people for their unfaithfulness to Him.God is not at all pleased with the unproductive attitude of the people of Israel.
The imagery given us depicts the fact that when God elected Israel out of the many nations of the world, He nurtured her. The care and patience with which God nurtured her cannot but yield the desired fruits but they yielded wild fruits.
The prophet Hosea puts it succinctly, “When Israel was a child, I loved her, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called her, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols” (Hosea 11:1-2).
You need to be a farmer to really appreciate this imagery. The fertility of the soil (v.1), its preparation (V.2) and its quality cannot be underestimated. Thus the expectation of the owner to find fruits is valid. He was so confident of the yield that he built a watchtower for the security man. This is to ensure constant security. However, the vineyard yielded wild grapes instead of grapes. It was now good for nothing and so the owner decided to destroy the vineyard.
In last week’s Gospel reading, we were told that the rejection of John the Baptist by the Jewish authorities was actually the rejection of the Father who sent him. But in today’s gospel parable, God is gracious and instead of sending judgment, He sent His Son. But they treated His son with impunity and eventually killed him.
The parable of the Vineyard is, therefore, a prototype of today’s first reading (Isaiah 5:1-7). Jesus reminds the Jews of God’s goodness to them as a nation. God delivered them from Egypt and planted them in a rich land flowing with milk and honey. He gave them material and spiritual blessings and asked only that they bear fruit for His glory. From time to time, God sends His servants (the prophets) to the people to receive the fruit. But the people mistreated the servants and even killed some of them including His only begotten son.
Unlike in the first reading that the vineyard owner destroyed the vineyard, in the gospel parable, the owner did not destroy the vineyard but decided to lease it to other tenants. This means that God recognizes our human condition and wants to give us another chance to bear fruits; fruits that will last. This is the import of today’s Gospel
In other words, there is a promise in the words of Jesus: the vineyard will not be destroyed. While the landowner abandons the unfaithful tenants to their fate, he does not abandon his vineyard and he entrusts it to his faithful tenants. What this demonstrates is that, if in some areas faith weakens to the point of vanishing, there will always be other peoples ready to embrace it.
In his homily at the Mass to mark the opening of the XII Synod of Bishops on “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church” on Oct. 5, 2008, Benedict XVI spoke beautifully of today’s parable: “At the end, the owner of the vineyard makes a last attempt: he sends his son, convinced that they will at least listen to him. However the contrary occurs: the tenants kill him because he is the son, the heir, convinced that they can then easily come into possession of the vineyard. We can clearly see how contempt for the order given by the owner is changed into scorn for him: this is not simple disobedience to a divine precept, but a true and actual rejection of God.
To refuse to bear fruit, therefore, is a rejection of God. Can you imagine man rejecting God? But Jesus has remained faithful to his call that when he is lifted up on the cross, he will draw all men to himself.
St. Paul in the second reading gives us a practical way to bear durable fruits, namely prayer. He invites us to a deeper relationship with God in the context of prayer. It is only when we learn to depend on God that we can be viable or fruitful. Paul proposes three things for our consideration as regards prayer namely ‘adoration’, ‘supplication’ and ‘thanksgiving’ (Philippians 4:6).
If God is really Abba; If His love is like the father of the prodigal son; If Jesus’ passion and Eucharist are confirmations of that unconditional love; if God did so love the world that He sent His only begotten son into the world not to condemn us, but to save us and bring us eternal life (John 3:16-19); If nothing really can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:31-39); and If God has prepared us to fully grasp “ with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God ( Ephesians 3:18-20), then God’s love is unconditional.
In conclusion, it is the unconditional love of God that we are invited to. We must necessarily bear durable fruits. Prayer is what St. Paul proposes for us as a tool to make us viable.
Source: Rev. Fr. Aaron Agorsor
Facebook: I Thirst