The Fruits of His Vineyard
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (08/10/2023
(Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43)
Fr. Samuel Odeh
“..and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry!” (Isaiah 5:7)
It is important for the believer to pay close attention to God’s initiative in establishing the relationship that exists between themselves and the Lord God. This way we are able to consider the appropriate response to God’s love for us. Our first reading, responsorial psalm and gospel reading today describe the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, as a vineyard. What is immediately striking is the Lord’s care and devotion to his vineyard; God invests a lot of time and energy on the land and on the crop. In the psalm chosen for today God’s care for his vineyard goes as far back as his rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Unfortunately, the people’s response is far less than what the Lord God would have expected in return for his efforts. What were the fruits the Lord expected from the people described as his “pleasant planting”? God had chosen Israel as his instrument of justice and righteousness to the nations, but the people failed God in this regard. They treated themselves unfairly and spilled innocent blood, they produced “sour grapes”. In the gospel reading this response to God is depicted as the rejection of Jesus and the way of life he taught. Down through the centuries of Israel’s existence the people, through their leaders, had rejected and resisted the prophets right up to Jesus. For refusing to appreciate the privilege God gave them Jesus says, “.. the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit” (Matthew 21:43).
What lessons can we draw upon from today’s readings? Do we appreciate God’s loving initiative to bring us into a loving relationship with him? Do we live our lives and interact with others as a consequence of this loving relationship we have with God? Are we fully aware of the fruits we must produce? Saint Paul in our second reading today gives a short list of these fruits: truthfulness, honor, justice, purity, loveliness, graciousness, excellence and all things worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). If we believe we are God’s people, then we must produce the fruits the Lord expects of us. This way we can be certain of enjoying his favor and blessings. We cannot produce these fruits if we do not stay connected to the Lord, tapping into the strength and energy he provides. We must spend time in prayer, both communal and personal. We must make an effort to avail ourselves of the sacraments and enter into communion with God’s holy word. We must see our calling to obey God’s laws and commandments as a loving response to his love for us.
“Uphold me according to thy promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!” (Psalms 119:116)