A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah
Vineyards were important in the ancient world because grapes were sweet to eat, and wine was a favorite drink. Isaiah tells a story about a man who took very good care of his vineyard only to find that it did not bear sweet fruit but only wild, useless grapes. So, the owner destroyed the vineyard.
Isaiah then tells the people, “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for judgement, but see, bloodshed; for justice, but hark, the outcry!” The outcry is from the people who are oppressed, and God’s judgement is upon them.
This “song of the vineyard,” as it is often called, is a warning to Israel that failure to live by God’s law will result in disaster.
“The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.” But our Psalm ends with a plea: “O Lord of hosts, restore us; if your face shines upon us, then we shall be saved.” What a beautiful image! Have you ever thought that the face of God shines upon you? No? You are not worthy? No! The all-powerful love of God can overcome any faults we may have.
A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians
“Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Of course, the Christians in Philippi had much to be anxious about. Their neighbors could turn them in to the Roman authorities, and they might have been tortured and or killed. That did happen to thousands of Christians, but many more were spared. Paul assures them that, amid all this danger, they will have “the peace of God … in Christ Jesus.”
Paul tells us today, “The God of peace will be with you.” In our crazy world, is the “God of peace” with you? Where have you found some peace in your life, some joy amidst sadness, deep inner love amidst division and the violence of words if not actions? The peace of God is always there. We have only to ask and believe.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew
(Chapter 21: 33-43)
This long parable tells of a landowner who planted a vineyard and leased it to tenants to harvest it and then share the produce. He sent his servants twice “to obtain his harvest,” but the tenants killed them. “Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’” But they killed the son too. “Jesus said to them, ‘Did you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
Jesus is saying this to “the chief priests and elders.” They and their predecessors have persecuted the prophets, and they will reject Jesus, just as the tenants in the parable rejected the landowner’s son. The kingdom of God will be taken away from them and given to Jesus’ disciples and their followers. Jesus directed this parable at leaders of the religious institution of his time, men who failed to recognize him as the Christ. It applies today to anyone who, knowing what Jesus taught, knowing the example he set with his own life, deliberately reject him will cut themselves off from his saving grace.
Photo by Jose Alfonso Sierra on Unsplash.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.