The Bishops Homily – 27th Sunday In Ordinary Time 2017

27th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Cycle A | 8 October 2017
Is. 5: 1-7
Phil. 4: 6-9
Mt. 21: 33-43

INTRODUCTION: The twin readings today about the Vineyard from Isaiah and from the Parable of Mathew are allegories. They are not only simply stories but stories with deeper meanings we readers should bring out to really appreciate and understand them. Let us now just do that.

(1) In the Bible, Israel is the Chosen People of God. His love has been lavished on Israel. He gave them the Law, the Prophets, the Covenant, liberation from slavery. He sets them up as the standard for the whole world. That vineyard refers to this Chosen People of the Old Testament. Who are this People? The Jews! The Lord God of Israel is called here by Isaiah as “friend.”

This Friend worked overtime to bring this Vineyard to completion. “He dug the soil, cleared it of stones and planted choice vines in it. In the middle he built a tower, dug a wine press.” He expected to produce the best grapes from which the best wine for export are made intended to intoxicate the whole world. Instead wild grapes came out not good for wine production. This means much is expected of the people of Israel. They have to live up to their calling. God chastises them if they don’t!

Wild grapes stand for the infidelities of Israel — the individual and collective sin of its people: specially, idolatry or worship of false gods, even brought to the Temple of Jerusalem, or their wish to be like the great nations of the world — something they should not be longing as they did for the fleshpots of Egypt while in the Desert!

What did God do as result of those infidelities? “He will take away its hedge for it to be grazed on; knock down its walls to be trampled upon.” God allows his children like good parents to feel the consequences of their infidelity referring to the Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

(2) Mathew’s Parable is in direct continuity with the Vineyard allegory of Isaiah but with a somewhat different twist of collecting rent instead of grapes from the vineyard. The vineyard is the new Chosen People of God, the Church. The Landowner is God who “fenched it round, dug a winepress, built a tower” referring to the Jerusalem Temple which towers over the City of Jerusalem.

The “servants” God send to collect rent refer to the various prophets and patriarchs sent up and down the centuries as spokesmen of God and all of them suffered different fate from the people. Finally, God sends his only Son who is abused, rejected, and killed. This is a most terrible anticipation of the Cross.

The question for our reflection is how are we tending the vineyard? We who is the Church, the new Chosen People of God, who have received so much from the Landowner? Are we responding to the Lord’s invitation with works of justice, love, peace, chastity, respect for others? Are we good grapes from which will come the best wine that can intoxicate the world? Or are we more or less killing the messengers He sends?

(3) Looking at today’s World of secularism and materialism in the light of this vineyard Allegory, what is secularism or materialism? It is that mentality that intentionally excludes God in consideration and thus man is deaf to the voice of the Spirit. What is the result of all this? Aridity, lifelessness, violence, etc. which are the wild or sour grapes of Isaiah’s and Mathew’s Parable or, in the words of St. John Paul II, “the culture of death.” God allows the effects of our sins and negligence.

CONCLUSION: Never leave the Gospel with a sense of hopelessness. The Lord ends the Parable with “the stone rejected by the builders has become the corner stone.” Yes, we are wicked! But God has not given up on us. Instead he made the sign of defeat a sign of victory! Base your life on Christ, the Cornerstone. Cultivate the Vineyard!

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD   
Bishop of Novaliches