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Monday, October 6, 2014


Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea, 
Saints Peter & Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ  Oct. 5, 2014 

In today’s readings for this 27th Sunday (Isaiah 5:1-7; Matt 21: 33-43), we are reminded of the importance of spiritual responsibility.

In today’s first reading we hear from the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah relates a story of a vine grower who has a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He spades it, clears it of stones, plants the choices vines, and builds a watchtower so that the vineyard can be protected. 

Yet, when harvest comes, all the vine grower gets is sour grapes.

Now the vineyard that is spoken of in today’s first reading is God’s chosen people, the Israelites. God had chosen this people to be the first fruits of His salvation. Yet, they continued to defy God’s laws. 

So what does God do? God takes the responsibility away from them. He allows the vineyard to be broken into and trampled so that it would become a place of ruin. In fact, this prophecy of Isaiah literally came true when the Israelites were invaded first by the Assyrians and later the Babylonians, who desecrated the land and deported the people.

Now, in today’s Gospel we hear of a similar story. In fact this parable is rooted in the image that we heard from today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah. In today’s Gospel, Our Lord also speaks of a vine grower who plants a vineyard, puts a hedge around it to protect it, digs a wine press in it, builds a tower and then leases it to tenants while He goes on a journey until harvest.

When vintage time draws near, he sends his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce and discovers that the harvest is not what it should be.

My brothers and sisters, today’s readings for this 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time calls us to be responsible with the gift of faith that has been handed down to us! God called the Israelites out of slavery and gave them the law and the commandments so that they would be a people set apart. He called them to bear the fruits of holiness. He told them not to intermingle with the other nations because they would be influenced by their iniquity and their worship of false gods. 

And when the Israelites strayed away from God, God sent the Israelites his messengers, the prophets, to guide them back to the right path. But they ignored the prophets. So God allowed the nation of  Israel to be destroyed.

Yet, in His mercy, God did not give up on His chosen people!  He sent them His Son. But they did not listen to Him! In fact, they killed Him by hanging Him on a cross!

My brothers and sisters, Our Lord Jesus is the last in a long line of prophets sent by God, and He is calling us to bear fruit of holiness. He is calling us to be faithful tenants of our Church.

Notice in today’s Gospel that our Lord is addressing the chief priests and the elders of the people who were the religious leaders of the time. So our Lord is saying to them specifically that it was their responsibility to hand down the teachings of the faith given to them through the prophets. 

Today, the Catholic Church depends on the magisterium for handing down the faith. But it is not simply the Church's hierarchy whom Our Lord calls to be responsible for protecting our faith! 

He is calling every one of us to protect the vineyard until our Lord comes again! We are each responsible to learn our faith, to know our faith, and to teach our faith.

Yet, we are also reminded that we do not own our faith. We don’t own the Church! We don’t own the world. We do not even own our own bodies! We don’t own anything! We are simply tenants. Everything we have in this world has been loaned to us  to care for. Everything we have is a gift from God!

We cannot be workers of the vineyard unless we first recognize that we are not in charge of the vineyard. God is in charge! We don’t make up the rules, because God has already given us the rules! He has done this through the prophets, the commandments, the Gospel, and through the laws of human nature!

The Father prunes those He loves 
We -- the living Body of Christ, the Church  --  are God’s vineyard -- to be set apart. We are not the world’s vineyard. Like the Israelites who were not to conform to the gods of the nations around them, we too, as members of the Church, are not to conform to the false god’s of our culture! 

This is why our Lord called the Church the narrow gate. For the gate to perdition is wide! In fact, what the devil plans is for our Church is to let the world's values in so that our Church, the vineyard of salvation, will be stripped of its sanctity and holiness.

This is why it is important that we pray hard for this upcoming synod on marriage and the family that it will bear much good fruit!

Finally, we may notice that although the message of today’s first reading and today’s Gospel passage are similar, there is a critical difference in the ending. In the passage from Isaiah when God is disappointed with the sour grapes, He destroys the vineyard. The hedge is taken away and given to grazing. The wall is broken through and trampled, and it is made a place of ruin. In the message from today’s Gospel, however, it is not simply the vineyard, but the tenants who are destroyed.

My brothers and sisters, our Lord is coming again, and holiness is the fruit that he expects from each one of us. We have been called to work in His vineyard for the salvation of souls. Let us be responsible tenants of the vineyard of our Lord until He comes again. For the kingdom of God will not be given to irresponsible tenants. It will be given to those who strive to produce the fruit of eternal life.

Did you enjoy this post? Fr. John Paul Shea has a new one  There Can Be No Mercy Without the Fullness of Truth

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