Sunday, October 8, 2023

06 October 2023

XXVII Week of Ordinary Time - Year A

Saint Justina, virgin and martyr

Is 5:1-7;
Ps 79;
Phil 4:6-9;
Mt 21:33-43

People in relationships are often aloof and cautious. How come? Because honesty is very risky and dangerous, and revealing one’s heart to others is often difficult and painful.

In the story of the vine we receive today, God reveals himself; he discovers his weakness which is love for man. Through the image of the building of the vineyard, he shows how carefully and precisely he approaches relationships with people; he cares about every detail of human life like a friend who sets up and builds a vineyard and makes every effort to create the perfect place for the vine to develop. However, despite this great care (good place, fence, defensive tower, pruning, watering...), the vine ultimately does not bear good fruit.

God’s plan for man’s life is the best possible plan, but it is often incomprehensible - to man. Therefore, rebellion, opposition and even reproach to God often arise in the human heart. Referring to today’s Word, like the vine we often rebuke the farmer: you built a fence and towers, that is, you wanted to limit me, you took my freedom; you pruned the branches, that is, you constantly hurt me; you weeded the vineyard, that is, you took from my life what I was attached to, what was close to me, you stole my pleasure. You sent rain when I wanted sunshine, that is, you took away my dreams and desires.... Man aspires to live as if God did not exist, according to his own life plan. But what will happen to a vineyard if the farmer does not fence it in, water it and take care of the vines? They will rake it and trample it.


Useful points to consider:

Pope Francis, Angelus, Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 8 October 2017

This Sunday’s liturgy offers us the parable of the tenants to whom a landowner lends the vineyard which he has planted, and then goes away (cf. Mt 21:33-43). This is how the loyalty of these tenants is tested: the vineyard is entrusted to them, they are to tend it, make it bear fruit and deliver its harvest to the owner. When the time comes to harvest the grapes, the landlord sends his servants to pick the fruit. However, the vineyard tenants assume a possessive attitude. They do not consider themselves to be simple supervisors, but rather landowners, and they refuse to hand over the harvest. They mistreat the servants, to the point of killing them. The landowner is patient with them. He sends more servants, larger in number than the previous ones, but the result is the same. In the end, he patiently decides to send his own son. But those tenants, prisoners to their own possessive behaviour, also kill the son, reasoning that, in this way, they would have the inheritance.

This narrative allegorically illustrates the reproaches of the prophets in the story of Israel. It is a history that belongs to us. It is about the Covenant which God wished to establish with mankind and in which he also called us to participate. Like any other love story, this story of the Covenant has its positive moments too, but it is also marked by betrayal and rejection. In order to make us understand how God the Father responds to the rejection of his love and his proposal of an alliance, the Gospel passage puts a question on the lips of the owner of the vineyard: “When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” (v. 40). This question emphasizes that God’s disappointment at the wicked behaviour of mankind is not the last word! This is the great novelty of Christianity: a God who, even though disappointed by our mistakes and our sins, does not fail to keep his Word, does not give up and, most of all, does not seek vengeance! […]

The urgency of replying with good fruits to the call of the Lord, who asks us to become his vineyard, helps us understand what is new and original about the Christian faith. It is not so much the sum of precepts and moral norms but rather, it is first and foremost a proposal of love which God makes through Jesus and continues to make with mankind. It is an invitation to enter into this love story, by becoming a lively and open vine, rich in fruits and hope for everyone. […]

Pope Francis, Angelus, Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 4 October 2020

[…] The image of the vineyard is clear: it represents the people whom the Lord has chosen and formed with such care; the servants sent by the landowner are the prophets, sent by God, while the son represents Jesus. And just as the prophets were rejected, so too Christ was rejected and killed.

At the end of the story, Jesus asks the leaders of the people: “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” (v. 40). And, caught up in the logic of the narrative, they deliver their own sentence: the householder, they say, will severely punish those wicked people and “let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons” (v. 41).

With this very harsh parable, Jesus confronts his interlocutors with their responsibility, and he does so with extreme clarity. But let us not think that this admonition applies only to those who rejected Jesus at that time. It applies to all times, including our own. Even today God awaits the fruits of his vineyard from those he has sent to work in it. All of us.

In any age, those who have authority, any authority, also in the Church, in the People of God, may be tempted to work in their own interests instead of those of God. And Jesus says that true authority is when one performs service; it is in serving, not exploiting others. The vineyard is the Lord’s, not ours. Authority is a service, and as such should be exercised for the good of all and for the dissemination of the Gospel. It is awful to see when people who have authority in the Church seek their own interests.