PRODUCING GOOD GRAPES

Isaiah 5:4-7,
Psalm 80,
Philippians 4:6-9,
Matthew 21:33-43

Do you have a vineyard or an orchard or a vegetable patch or any kind of garden? If you do, then you certainly want to see some good growth. So does God. This Sunday we hear a lot about vineyards. God is looking to have his vineyard – the house of Israel – produce a good harvest of grapes. Unfortunately, the results fall far short of his expectations.

ISAIAH 

The prophet describes his friend’s – that is, the Lord’s –  vineyard. Although the friend took great care of it, the vineyard yielded only “wild grapes.” We are told that the owner will “make it a ruin.” We are further told that “the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant.” From history we know that Assyria was used to punish Israel, even as Babylon was used to punish Judah centuries later. There were grave consequences for the vineyard not producing good grapes!

GOSPEL

The image of the vineyard comes up again in the gospel, this time directly related to the mission of Jesus. When the owner’s servants – the prophets – came to receive the produce, they were rejected and assaulted. “They will respect my son,” the owner thinks. Not so! “They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” Jesus himself was the stone that the builders rejected, who has become the cornerstone, quoting Psalm 118. Jesus predicts that the kingdom of God will be taken away from Israel and given to a people that will produce its fruit – an allusion to the Gentiles.

PHILIPPIANS

Our second reading is from chapter four of Philippians, starting with the verse just after St. Paul has urged us to “Rejoice in the Lord always!” He tells us to have no anxiety but to make our requests with thanksgiving. That will enable the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds. (We’re reminded of St. Padre Pio’s adage, “Pray, hope and don’t worry.”) The passage ends  with an exhortation to keep our minds fixed on praiseworthy virtues. Don’t let all the bad news drag you down! The word of God speaks to us today in our troubled times with divine wisdom to give us the peace that we desperately need.

TEND YOUR OWN VINEYARD

We can’t take care of the vineyard that is Israel, nor that of the Church universal. But we can tend the portion of the vineyard that is entrusted to us: our personal lives, our families, our workplace, our circle of friends, etc. In this season when there seems to be some “pruning” going on, let us be all the more intentional about bearing good fruit as part of the true vine. “I am the vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2).

Al Mansfield