October 5: Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43
The readings of this Sunday offer us a very powerful message. They focus our attention on the Mystery of the Church as the vineyard of the Lord. In the Gospel, Jesus gives us another vineyard parable. In contrast to the past two Sundays it has a terrible and a violent character. On one level we can say the parable has been fulfilled in Jesus' Passion and death on the cross, but really it applies to every generation of Christians, in some ways especially to our own. Jesus prophesies the rise of servants who will rebel against the vineyard owner (God himself) and attempt to take it over for their own purposes. In the first reading we listen to Isaiah's song about a friend who had a vineyard. Isaiah uses poetic imagination to describe God’s disappointment with his vineyard, which is his Chosen People, Israel. Instead of yielding good grapes it yielded only sour grapes. Therefore God removed its protection. The Northern Kingdom of Israel fell in 722 BC about twenty years after Isaiah began his ministry. The southern kingdoms also fell after two centuries. The message of Isaiah is that the Lord looks for faithfulness to his Covenant, but only finds infidelity and betrayal. That is why in Psalm 80 Israel responds with a prayer to the Lord. The prayer pleads with the Lord for care and protection, but Israel also promises faithfulness. We can hardly listen to the prophesy of Isaiah without thinking about what is happening in many nations in the world today: rejection of Christian values, corruption in high places, the disregard of human rights.
The similarity between the Gospel and the first reading is striking. Jesus builds the parable of the vineyard around the vineyard song of Isaiah. The parable begins with inclusion and ends with exclusion and replacement because of infidelity, treason and failure to produce fruit. It is a powerful message from Jesus on the consequences of infidelity and betrayal. Just as in the case of the prophecy of Isaiah, one cannot read the Gospel of this Sunday without thinking of the root causes of the complicated financial crisis currently facing the world these days. The parable focuses on greed, reckless ambition, betrayal of public trust and incredible mismanagement. This crisis provides an opportunity to examine our own lives as Christian on how we are carrying out the trust placed upon us by Christ. By virtue of our Baptism we have been called by the Lord to be the new workers in the vineyard, namely the Church. We are expected to produce fruit at the proper time. To help us produce fruit, the lord in his great kindness sends us teachers and prophets, who lead us to repent and to his gift of forgiveness. The message in the Gospel is clear. Today as in the past, the prophesy of Jesus in relation to the Church is fulfilled. There is no shortage of betrayers, corrupt officials and disloyal workers in the vineyard. What is the message? 1) The readings invite once more to become God’s faithful tenants of his vineyard. 2) We are challenged to change our perspective on life and faith issues. Rather than focusing on selfish gain, we need to focus more on doing things that benefit others as well. Greed, quick profits and deception, were at the root cause of the betrayal and breach of trust by the tenants in the Gospel. 3) On the civil society level, when institutional organs fail to produce the expected results, that calls for reforms, change and transformation at all levels of society. Now is the opportune moment.
©2008 John M Mbinda