27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Psalm 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20 (Isaiah 5:7a)
October 4, 2020
Is the Lord with us in our struggles? The Lord is always with us. Everything that is good comes from the Lord.
The Lord is like the vineyard owner described by Isaiah. The Lord established a vineyard. “He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press.” The Lord did everything a good vineyard owner should do. The Lord’s vineyard is the House of Israel.
What did the efforts of the vineyard owner get him? Wild grapes.
So it was with the house of Israel in the days of Isaiah. They had become like “wild grapes” in living sinful lives.
Just as the vineyard owner wondered, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?,” we might wonder if there was anything more the Lord could do for the House of Israel, and for us today.
The problem was not that the Lord was not doing enough. The problem was the Israelites turning away from the Lord. Just as the vineyard owner let his vineyard be trampled, so does the Lord allow the House of Israel to suffer the consequences of its sins.
The vineyard owner speaks of commanding the clouds not to send the rain. So too does God limit his grace to his people when they sin. (I say “limit” because God is eager to give us grace when we turn back to him with contrite hearts.)
The Israelites wanted to have their cake and eat it too. They wanted to receive God’s graces without having to follow God’s commandments.
A few centuries later Jesus tells a similar parable. A landowner planted a vineyard and did everything that was expected of a good landowner. Then, he leased the vineyard to tenants.
At harvest time, he sent his servants to “obtain his produce.” This was his due in accordance with the lease. The tenants worked the vineyard and gave the landowner his share of the produce in payment of the lease.
However, the tenants got greedy. They wanted to keep all the produce for themselves. So, they beat, killed, and stoned the owner’s servants.
So, the landowner sent more servants but the tenants did the same to them. When the landowner sent his son, the tenants killed him too to “acquire his inheritance.”
The servants sent by the landowner are like the prophets sent by God who the Israelites persecuted and killed. Then, God sent his Son. Jesus came to share with the people the gift of salvation. The Israelites didn’t understand that.
Do we accept the Lord’s gift of salvation or do we want to live our own ways? We think we can have both. We make ourselves the authors of life, determining when it begins and when it ends.
We fall short of respecting and cherishing what God has given us in creation.
Today is Respect Life Sunday. Do we see life as a gift from God? This life is much more than just the physical life we experience in this world. The life God offers us is for eternity. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. If we want to receive eternal life, we must choose to follow Jesus as the way, embracing the truth He offers us.
I would guess that when many people hear the term “respect life”, their thoughts turn to life in the womb and the topic of abortion.
When does life begin? When a male and female come together in sexual intimacy and the egg and the sperm unite, a unique physical individual is formed with a unique genetic makeup that will never be repeated. This is biology. However, there is more than just biology at work here. God bestows life at conception.
In respecting life, we should also think of life as one’s physical life draws to a close in this world. There is an appointed time for everything…a time to be born and a time to die.” We do not choose when it is our time to die. God is the author of life.
A person is not just what they can do. So, when a person grows old or ill and cannot do the things they used to, their value to the rest of us is not over. They are still a human person with dignity given by God. Rather than hastening death, we are called to accompany them with love in their sufferings.
There is still more to respecting life. If we truly value life, then we must respect life in the womb and at the end as the time for a person to enter the tomb comes. We must also respect life at all stages in between.
This includes the Corporal Works of Mercy to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, and visit the sick.
It also means also treating people with respect. The tenants of the landowner in the gospel did not treat the landowner’s servants with respect. In fact, they attacked them to get what they wanted.
They beat and stoned the servants. I hope and pray you would not kill someone for your own benefit. However, how do you treat other people? Do you ever take advantage of other people to get what you want? Do you steal their ideas and take the credit for yourself? Do you moderate what you consume yourself, mindful of the needs of others, or do you take as much as you want without any concern for others?
If you realize you have sinned, always know that God is ready to forgive you when you confess your sins.
Human beings are more than just biological machines. When machines don’t work the way we want and cannot be fixed, we get rid of them. We cannot treat human beings the same way. We are given life by God. We must respect life in the womb, at the tomb, and everywhere in between.