Blog # 371 Working in God's vineyard
The readings for our liturgy today, 27th Sunday Ordinary Time, are from Isaiah 5: 1 - 7, and Mat. 21: 33-43. The Gospel takes us into a vineyard for the third consecutive Sunday.
Isaiah's 'friend' who had a vineyard is God. The vineyard is the house of Israel. The people of Judah are the cherished plant. The words of Isaiah had a definite context and specific meaning for the people to whom he addressed them. But today they are also addressed to us. You, I, we as believing Christians, are the house of Israel, the people of Judah, God's "cherished plant". (v.7). Jesus is the rich soil in which we are planted when we listen to His words and by faith make them our own. As a plant receives its nourishment from the soil in which it grows, so we receive our meaning, and goal of life from the truth Jesus teaches us, in our faith. We are planted in fertile soil. All of creation is about love. There is no more perfect love for the Father than the love Jesus lived and offers to share with us in faith and Baptism.
Through our obedience to the commandments of God we carry out the Father's work of caring for His vineyard, which can be identified in each of us individually, in the Church, and in all of creation. It is the work of designing the vineyard, planting it, cultivating it, fertilizing it, weeding it, watering it, enjoying it, harvesting its fruit. In our obedience to His will we have a share in the work of the owner of the vineyard. The quality of the soil and the design of the vineyard is the sole work of the owner, our Creator. The remaining work is shared with us. Forgiving sins is like pulling weeds. Prayer is like water. The work of the missions is the work of planting new vines. Penance, self-denial, and fasting are cultivators. Sacraments act like fertilizers, and our growth in holiness gives God joy. The harvest is the moment of death for individuals, and the end of the world for the Church.
It seems most important to me to realize as far as we can the faith we proclaim each Sunday in the Creed: We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, all that is seen and unseen. All of creation is God's vineyard. God owns it all. The same God who made the mountains made the sea. The same God Who sent His Word from Heaven to live among us as one of us though divine, is the God Who calls us to hear Him speak truth in the words of Jesus and see Him act in the obedience of Jesus, and then make that truth and that obedience our own. The same God.
All of creation tells the believer who God is, the God who designs us, calls us, cherishes us, cares for us. The stars tell something of God. There are more than thirty billion of them in our galactic system, and there are thirty billion or so other star systems in addition to ours in God's vineyard. The Creator of all is our Creator. Earth as it moves in its course around the sun at a speed of eighteen miles a second, sixty-five thousand miles an hour, and covers one million five hundred thousand miles each day, tells us something more. And our heart of flesh, what a creation! Seventy-two beats a minute is normal, with one hundred four thousand beats a day and thirty-eight million beats a year. This is all taking place in the owner's vineyard. Jesus claimed it all for our Father in a very simple way: " Not a single sparrow falls to the earth without your Father's consent...As for you, every hair on your head has been counted, so do not be afraid of anything." (Mat. 18: 29,30).
With all these statistics verified by modern science it should not be difficult to realize our owner is worthy of our unconditional trust, and our total love. Working in His vineyard, and knowing what we are doing is a wonderful privilege that comes from faith.
In todays' Gospel, Jesus answers the question left unanswered in Isaiah:
What more was there for me to do for my vineyard that I had not done? Jesus in His life, death, and resurrection is the answer to that question. "He sent His Son to them". And they killed Him. Wild grapes, then and now, lewd conduct, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, bickering, jealousy, outbursts of rage, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like.. It is still going on. However, there is good fruit as well: love, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness and chastity. (Gal. 5: 22,23).