Monday, October 6, 2014

27th Sunday Ordinary Time - Matthew 22: 33-43 - "In the Lord's Vineyard"

In both the First Reading from Isaiah and the Gospel of Matthew we have the use of a vineyard to express the gifts of God to His people.  In both passages we have:

A landowner who invests time, expenses and loving care to create a bountiful garden.
He prepares the soil; making it fertile for good growth
He selects choice vines to grow luscious fruit
He puts up a hedge and a wall to keep out marauding animals
He constructs a wine press to process the fruit at maturity
He erects a watchtower to guard against outsiders
The landowner creates a beautiful garden that will give life abundantly to his chosen tenants.  But in each vineyard things go astray.

In the garden of Isaiah, the fruit that develops is not the luscious, life-giving fruit the landowner intended.  Those who tend His garden have allowed wild grapes to grow.  Their neglect has allowed other vines to grow; bearing fruit that is useless for making wine, barely fit to eat, and some are deadly to consume.  Through their disregard for and misuse of the landowner’s gifts of the garden, these tenants have not returned to Him the yield he sought and have made his vineyard an unprofitable disgrace.

In the vineyard of Matthew we see the actions of the tenants misappropriating the gifts of the landowner’s garden.  Here they redirect the gifts for their own use; failing to return a profit due Him.  And when He attempts to remind the tenants that all they have come from Him, they abuse and kill his messengers.  Finally, the landowner, in hope that the tenants will come to their senses and realize that He is the giver of all they have, he sends his Son.  But the tenants; believing that, by their own labors, they are the authors of the vineyard and all it contains, plot to kill His Son.  They selfishly desire to seize ownership for themselves.

In both of these readings the tenants have forgotten - from where the gifts of the vineyard came.  Either through neglect or self-indulgence they have ignored the care, the effort and the loving benevolence of the landowner.  Through their indifference of His gifts or in their selfish desire - they fail to keep faith with Him.  

In His creation of the vineyard, in which the tenants have life through his choicest gifts, He asked a return – a share of the good fruit of the garden and faith in Him as benefactor.  But, in each vineyard He did not receive His due.  Instead, He received neglect and contempt for his gifts and abuse and bloodshed as return for His effort.  

In each vineyard He deals severely with the tenants.  In the one, He devastates the lush garden; tearing out the hedge, uprooting the vines, allowing the wild beasts to trample it and let it be overgrown with briars and thorns. He takes away the fertile ground and abundant life He provided.

In the other, He keeps the fruitful garden, but replaces the tenants with new tenants.  He gives His gifts to a people who desire life in His vineyard – a people who will keep faith in Him; – sharing in the gifts of the fruitful life He provides.  

The landowner’s mercy is shown through to His continual invitation to new tenants to live in His vineyard and share in His gifts – gifts that lead to a fruitful, nourishing life.  His offer of tenancy in the bountiful, life-giving vineyard is extended to all who desire a share in His gifts. 

He is the landowner, the creator, the provider, the benefactor - upon whose gifts we rely.  Through His generosity we receive the abundance of new life by keeping faith with Him. ~Amen

Deacon Don

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