October 3, 2014

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first section of the Book of Isaiah is the source of this weekend’s first reading. The prophet speaks directly to the people. He speaks in God’s voice, in the first person.

In this reading, the prophet employs an image with which his contemporaries would have been very familiar, the image of the vineyard. He describes the land of God’s people as a vineyard. The vineyard belongs to God. God tends the vineyard. Lavish in generosity and care, God fills the vineyard with the choicest vines.

In this passage, the prophet shows how disappointed he was with his people. He saw them moving along a path that would lead to their destruction.

What was happening as a result? The people were polluting God’s vineyard. They became wild grapes, sour and repulsive, unworthy of being in the beautiful vineyard. They were creating their own doom by being unfaithful to God.

The prophet saw their disloyalty in their laxity in religious observance. Especially troubling for him were the leaders who were flirting with neighboring pagan states and who allowed the paganism of these neighbors to influence policy.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians provides the second reading this weekend.

Philippi was an important military post in the Roman Empire, located in modern Greece. It was a thoroughly pagan community. Because of their worship of the God of Israel, of Jesus as the Son of God, and because of their devotion to the Gospel values of love, sacrifice, and life in God, Christians were looked upon by pagans with disdain. Oftentimes, they viewed Christians as threats.

Before long, this disdain for Christians in the empire erupted into outright persecution.

Understandably, this epistle sought to encourage and reassure Philippi’s Christians. It admonished them to be always faithful to God, to be always holy, and never to fear opposition or persecution.

St. Matthew’s Gospel is the source of the third reading.

As has been the case on other weekends, the selection for this weekend is a parable. Jesus tells the story while having a discussion with priests and elders. In the parable, Jesus refers to a “landowner,” who, of course, is God.

The landowner has planted a vineyard. Remember the first reading? Vineyards often were used in the Old Testament to describe the nation of Israel. The vineyard belongs to God. Those who occupy the vineyard merely are tenants. God protected the vineyard by surrounding it with a hedge and then went on a journey, leaving tenants to tend the vineyard.

In due course, the landowner sends his servants to the tenants to collect the yield. The servants find that the tenants have turned against God. The tenants kill these servants. God sends more servants. They too are killed. Finally, the Son of God was sent, also to be killed. Finally, God drives the tenants from the vineyard.

Reflection

The Church has called us to discipleship during these weeks. It restates this call in these readings.

Ultimately, today’s lesson is not about doom and destruction, although both Isaiah and Matthew feature unhappiness and death. Rather, the message is of salvation and hope.

By disobeying, or ignoring, God, we bring chaos upon ourselves. God does not just hurl thunderbolts of anger and revenge at us. Instead, we can create our own eternal doom. We are free to choose to sin. We can choose to be with God, or to be without God. Salvation is not forced upon us. We can choose a plight of death and hopelessness.

All is not necessarily lost. The wonder and great opportunity in all this is that God accepts us back if we repent. God is merciful. By forgiving us, God returns us to the vineyard, there to find life and goodness forever. †

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