Gospel For Today: 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time


This week’s Scripture readings once more involve vineyard metaphors.  The first reading from Isaiah 5:1-7 tells of a vineyard that was planted and well cared for.  But when it did not produce the desired fruit, it was allowed to be trampled and grazed upon by animals, making it into a ruin.  Our gospel reading from Matthew 21:33-43 tells of another vineyard that a landowner left to the care of tenants.  When he sent his servants, and later on his very own son, to obtain the produce from the vineyard, the tenants responded by killing them.

What are the scriptures telling us with these stories?  In the first reading from Isaiah, we are told that the vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel. This helps us to understand the gospel reading.  The landowner is God, and the servants he sends to check on his vineyard are the prophets, who were rejected by His people.  Finally God even sends His only begotten Son to them, and they kill Him.  And so in our gospel reading, Jesus tells the chief priests and elders of Israel that “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
God prepared the people of Israel from the beginning to be the ones to bring salvation into the world.  If you examine the Old Testament, you see God working with His people to make His will — and His love — known.  From Adam, through Noah and Abraham, and later Moses and David and Solomon and beyond, the Jewish people were “being prepped,” as it were, to receive the Messiah.  And why?  Was it all done just for Israel’s benefit?  Is God a Father who shows favoritism?  No, God’s plans are much larger than one family, one tribe, one race or even one nation.  God’s plans are for an eternal and everlasting Kingdom that would encompass all of creation.
Throughout the history of the Jewish people, we see foreshadowing of Christ.  I’ll give just one example.  In Exodus, we find the exciting story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt, liberating them from slavery.  You’d think they would be grateful for that.  However, they soon began to grumble and complain.  It was hot out in the desert, they were hungry, and it was starting to appear to some that Moses didn’t really know where he was going.  They doubted him.  And they doubted God.  So they rebuked God and began worshiping a different false god, in the golden calf.  After this, Moses was called to mediate between God and the Isaelites to restore their covenant relationship. And from Israel came the Christ, the ultimate mediator between God and all mankind.
With Christ, God’s covenant family, and His Kingdom, is extended to the entire world, even though it sprang from the covenant with Israel.  But not all in Israel would accept the Messiah when He came.  The tenants of the vineyard rejected and killed the Son of the master.  Thus the vineyard is allowed to fall into ruin, and the Kingdom of God is “given to a people that will produce fruit.”  That people includes Gentiles and Jews, slave and free, rich and poor, you and I.  That Kingdom today subsists in the Catholic Church (Lumen Gentium 8, Vatican II).  The citizens of that Kingdom are assured of their King’s faithfulness and everlasting love for them.
Thus we come to my message for you today.  Allow yourselves to rely on Christ.  St. Paul writes in today’s second reading (Phil 4:6-9), “Have no anxiety at all…”  What a message for college students to hear, especially as we move into the second half of the semester with exams, projects, and due dates looming!  What a message for freshmen to hear who are still getting used to life away from home and who may now be feeling the consequences of poor decisions made in the early exhilaration of independence!  What a message for seniors to hear who may have no idea whether a job will be waiting for them after graduation!  What a message for all of us to hear who feel weighed down by today’s responsibilities and have no assurance of what tomorrow may bring!
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”  God has always promised to take care of His people.  Mankind has always struggled to rely on that promise.  The fall of man began with Adam’s failure to trust in God’s promise to take care of them by ignoring God’s instructions to not eat of the tree of knowledge.  Adam caved in to his anxiety, remaining silent and inactive as the serpent tempted his wife and led them to rebellion.  There is not one mention in scripture of Adam asking God for help in his time of need.  Likewise, after Moses freed the Isrealites from Egypt, the people grew anxious and uncertain and they, too, rebelled against God.  They worshiped false idols.  They did not rely on God.
But Moses interceded for them and so Christ now intercedes for us.  By prayer and petition and thanksgiving, make your requests known to Him.  Give your needs over to Him.  And then trust in Him.  I’m not saying a simple prayer will guarantee you an A on an exam, or fix your boyfriend or girlfriend problems, or solve your roommate issues.  God’s plan for you does not always look like you expect it to.  But it’s always what is best for you.  And you need to trust in that. You are a citizen of His Kingdom, a member of His family.  He will take care of you.
And so have no anxiety at all.  Easier said than done, right?  How can you keep away those anxious thoughts?  You rebuke them, for they do not come from God.  Focus instead on His blessings.  St. Paul instructs us, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, whatever is excellent, whatever is worthy of praise… think about these things.”  Don’t worry. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and seen in Christ, in the Church, in the holy men and women God has placed in your lives.  Then the God of peace will be with you.  Then you will rest in your place in His Kingdom.