The Twenty-Seventh Sunday in
We are in the fall of the year in our part of the world. Apples and pumpkins, beans and corn, zucchini and squash are being gathered and prepared for winter's dinners. It is the fruitful time for this bounteous nation.
Paul makes a list of crops which flourish in the Kingdom of God. "Have no anxiety at all," be prayerful, thankful,be at peace, be true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious and live in the presence of God. Quite a bumper harvest for the Sower of grace to glean from His earthly fields.
The vineyards an image, appears in both the first and third readings for today's Sunday liturgy. Isaiah confronts the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah with a song about his friend who planted a choice vineyard, but what fruit was there, but wild grapes. The listeners of this song were being called to reform and be again God's choicest vine, or else be trampled and given over to ruin.
Jesus, in the gospel, bends the minds of his hearers back to this familiar agricultural image of God's people as a fine vineyard. He adds a short history of how this vineyard had been cared for by the leaders whom Jesus calls "tenants". Prophets have been sent by God, the owner, but they were mistreated and when the Owner sent His Son, they removed him from the property and killed him. The story needed no further explanation then, nor now. Jesus, knowing the prophet's image foretells His own outcome, because He knows the unfruitful ways of the "tenants" into whose charge the vineyard had been entrusted.
Jesus tells His listeners that the vineyard will be taken away and given to a people, "that will produce its fruit". The early Christians, the new vineyard, heard the call and reflected often on what the new fruit was to be. Paul writes often in all his letters of the virtues and manners of those who know and accept themselves as the new garden. Being included is such a warm experience. Being called into union with others assures our fragile identity. Being affirmed as holy and loved by God solves one major human question, but creates an other.
Who are we? We are who we are by the grace and love of God. As women and men of prayer, we have heard the blessing words that we are His body. The new question is, what does a member of the Body of Christ do? Is there an Owners Manual to outline simply and clearly what fruits are we to produce and how do we do that?
As Christians we move slowly from "should" to "wants". The fruit that the Owner of this garden wishes to find begin growing in our desires not our fears about what must we do and what is going to be required of us. "Is it going to be on the exam?" No, there is no exam, just a divine love that works along with us to bring forth the fruit that Paul outlines here today and in so many other passages.
Few of us would call ourselves, "virtuous", because we are not perfect;
we most honestly might say, "Well, sometimes", excusing ourselves by the
trite, "Nobody's perfect". If we believe in Jesus then we believe
in His call for us to be included, joined together and be who it is we
are. We decide to resist any other identity and therefore, we refuse
to be told what to do, except what is in our hearts and souls to do.
Simply then, we do Christ. We do not wonder what Jesus would do now;
He does what we do now as influenced by our constantly new identity.
Our problem is that we have much of the old vineyard soil in us and our
cultivation takes His time and our own. Be patient with the growing.