Respect Life Sunday?
The image that runs through the First Reading and the Gospel is that of a Vineyard and the importance of bearing fruit. In Isaiah it is in a portion of the Book that the New American Bible calls; “The Book of Judgment, Indictment of Israel and Union.” This section contains a series of poems or oracles that describe the moral collapse of Israel and the various consequences that the two kingdoms of the divided Israel will face. The Vineyard Song tells of the owner of the vineyard who takes great care in preparing a vineyard for a plentiful harvest. When the time came for the harvest the grapes were wild grapes and could not be used for wine. The owner responds by tearing down the vineyard because it did not bear fruit. Isaiah explains this song is about how God established the “house of Israel” with the expectation that they would bear fruit, but they did not and so the consequences were coming. In the Gospel Jesus tells the parable of the Tenants and it parallels that of the Vineyard Song. The landowner spared no expense in preparing a vineyard. When time came for the harvest the tenant farmers didn’t want to give the owner his share of the crop. The landowner makes several attempts to claim his portion and his servants are repeatedly abused or killed by the tenants. Finally, when the owner sends his son, they kill the son with the unrealistic idea that they would then own the vineyard. The parable does not end well for the tenants who lose everything, and the owner finds new tenants who will bear fruit. In both readings the vineyard represents the Kingdom of God. The last line of the parable sums up these readings: “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
These two readings challenge us to look at our lives and see what kind of fruit we are bearing in living as followers of Christ. There are numerous ways to approach this challenge and the second reading from Philippians is one that serves as an excellent guide. Paul ends this letter with advice which is to seek that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and gracious, and to think about anything of excellence and worthy of praise. This is quite a list of qualities and values that will result in our bearing fruit If we seek these and practice them. Who would not want to seek and find the true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and gracious? When these become a focus and goal in our spiritual lives, we will see the fruit of them in our everyday lives. They affect the way that we look at people around us, they lead us to be mindful of how we act towards others and help us to become intentional in sharing our faith.
Through our Baptism we have become workers in the vineyard of the Lord. He has given us a beautiful vineyard of Sacraments and devotions, of parishes and communities, and opportunities to reach out to others. This vineyard of the Lord was prepared by the sweat and blood of our Lord as he walked the road to calvary and died on the cross. He put his entire self into preparing this for us and gives us the responsibility to work the vineyard so that we will bear fruit. May we be faithful stewards of His vineyard and share in the rich harvest of glory he has prepared for us.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.