27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
October 5, 2014
Isaiah speaks of his “friend” who worked diligently to create the perfect vineyard. He did everything one would expect, he spaded it, cleared the stones, and planted the best vines he could find. He built a watchtower and a wine press.
What happened? He got a bunch of wild grapes. Wild grapes are a pain. Years ago my dad had a handful of grape vines on his property that he kept trimmed. They were there before he brought the property and grew a lot of good grapes but eventually became too much work for the amount of grapes he got. So he pulled them out. Now, around fifteen years later, there are still no planted vines but there are still wild ones that I have to keep cutting back. The vines on the wild grapes grow like crazy but seldom bear grapes and if they do, bear tiny little grapes.
They need to be pruned to bear good fruit.
Of course the story is really about God. God created the earth as his “masterpiece” and then gave it to us. We could not have asked for a better creation but what have we done with it.
Do we keep ourselves pruned in God’s Word, cutting out the parts of our lives that are not in accord with God’s words? Or do we let ourselves grow wild and then wonder why life goes downhill?
Jesus offers us a similar parable where the landowner does everything of him in setting up the vineyard and then leases out the land. In payment for the lease, the tenants are supposed to give him part of the harvest. This is a normal exchange of goods.
However, when harvest time comes, the tenants get greedy and want to keep it for themselves. So much so that they murder the landowner’s servants and ultimately even his son.
The landowner’s servants are like the prophets of the Old Testament who were rejected by the people for preaching a message they didn’t want to hear. Of course, the son of the landowner is Jesus.
Do we get greedy with what God has given us? Do we use wisely the things before us? It’s not that we can’t use them at all. God has given us much to use but we must use it wisely as part of God’s masterpiece.
So far, I have spoken of God’s masterpiece as the things we see in nature, the birds, the animals, the land… but these things, while beautiful, are not God’s ultimate masterpiece.
God’s masterpiece is life and, created in God’s image, human beings are the ultimate masterpiece.
Sometimes we lose sight of what it means to be God’s masterpiece. Sometimes we become too focused on ourselves and become greedy, seeking more than our share at the expense of others. Those others are all part of God’s masterpiece and have the same rights as us. We must not take from them what is their share.
Sometimes we think we get to decide what a masterpiece of life is. We don’t.
This month is Respect Life month and this year’s theme is “Each of us is a masterpiece of God’s creation.”
All human life is a masterpiece. It begins in the womb and ends as we know it as natural death.
Sometimes it seems inconvenient to some, interfering with their own plans. We can be selfish and don’t want to make sacrifices.
Sometimes we value the gift of life when we are young but when we get old and tired we want to give up. Our faith knows there comes a point when we don’t use extraordinary means to keep an ill person alive but death should never be hastened and come naturally.
Respecting life is not just a question of life at the beginning in the womb or at the end when we enter the tomb. Respecting life also means valuing all life in between.
It means making sure people have their basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter taken care of. This comes from Jesus himself who tells us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
What about people with what some call “special needs”? There are people with physical needs that might be lifelong or started with an accident or simply from aging. They too are, and always remain, masterpieces of God’s creation.
There are people with challenges like Autism or Down’s. Some “feel sorry” for these people. Sometimes we don’t know what to do to help.
I know I don’t know what to do to help these people. What I do know from my own encounters is that people with challenges like these are sometimes the happiest and most loving people we see. There lies the real masterpiece of creation, love.
May we all have the grace we need to see as God sees, to love and know that “Each of us is a masterpiece of God’s creation.”