October 6, 2023

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 Mass this weekend. 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 very familiar. It is the image of a vineyard, describing the land of God’s people as a vineyard in which grapes were grown. The people do not own the vineyard. It belongs to God. Lavished with care, God fills the vineyard with the choicest vines. He tends the vineyard.

The author of this section of Isaiah was 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 themselves became wild grapes—sour, wrinkled and bitter, unworthy of being in the beautiful vineyard. The people were disloyal to God, disobedient to 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 for Mass this weekend.

Philippi was an important military post in the Roman Empire, located in modern Greece. It was a thoroughly pagan community, with only 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 the Apostle sought to encourage and to reassure Philippi’s Christians, admonishing them to always be faithful to God, to always be holy and to never fear opposition or persecution.

St. Matthew’s Gospel is the source of the third reading for Mass this weekend.

As has been the case on other weekends, the selection for this weekend is a parable. Jesus tells the parable in a discussion he had with priests and elders. The parable is about a “landowner” of a vineyard, who of course is God (Mt 21:33).

(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 who worked in the vineyard were tenants. God protected this vineyard by surrounding it with a hedge. Then he went on a journey, leaving the tenants to tend the vineyard.

In due course, the landowner sent servants to the tenants to collect the yield, but the tenants turned against God. They killed the servants. God sent more servants. They, too, were killed. Finally, the landowner sent his son, who was also killed. Finally, God drove the tenants from the vineyard.


The Church repeatedly 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 focus on unhappiness and death. Rather, the message is of salvation and hope.

By disobeying or ignoring God, we create our own bad situations and often nothing good for others.

This is a fact. We may choose to sin or we may choose to be with God. The choice belongs to us. These readings urge us to resist temptation, to be faithful to God.

God does not hurl thunderbolts of anger and revenge upon us. He offers the sunlight of divine mercy for us to help us grow in the vineyard, developing into something sweet and beautiful.

What if we have sinned? God always accepts us back if we repent. †

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