October 6, 2017

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 the first reading for this weekend’s Masses. In this passage, the prophet speaks directly to the people. He speaks as God, in the first person.

The prophet employs an image with which his contemporaries would have been familiar, describing the land of God’s people as a vineyard. The people do not own the vineyard. It belongs to God. Lavish in generosity and care, God fills the vineyard with the choicest vines and tends it.

Isaiah was very disappointed with his people. He saw them moving along a path that would lead to their destruction.

Why the concern? What was happening? The people were polluting God’s vineyard. They had become wild grapes, sour and bitter, unworthy of being in the beautiful vineyard. They were being disloyal to God by disobeying his law and lax in religious observance. Especially troubling the prophet were the leaders of the Chosen People who were flirting with neighboring pagan states, allowing 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, probably with a scattering of Christians. Pagans looked upon Christians with disdain, at best, as threats at most, because of the Christians’ 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 with God.

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

Understandably, Paul sought in this epistle to encourage and reassure Philippi’s Christians, admonishing them always to be faithful to God, always to be holy, and indeed never to fear opposition or even 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 during a discussion with priests and elders. He refers to a landowner of a vineyard, who of course is God.

Remember the first reading? Vineyards often were used in the Old Testament to describe the nation of Israel.

The landowner, or God, planted a vineyard. It belongs to God. The people occupying the vineyard merely are tenants. The landowner protected this 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, but the tenants turned against God. They kill these servants. God sent more servants. They, too, were 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. We create our own eternal situation, and often our tranquility or stress on Earth by our reaction to temptation.

We may choose to sin, or we may choose to be with God. The choice belongs to us.

God does not hurl thunderbolts of anger and revenge at us.

Rather, God accepts us back if we repent of our sins. By forgiving us, God returns us to the vineyard, there to find life and goodness forever. †

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