by Father William R. Dulaney
Some laughter or chuckles from the congregation at the right moment assure a preacher that he got his point across.
While a homilist may find it amusing to notice one person in a pew gesturing to another as if to say, “he’s talking about you,” he hopes everyone gathered for worship realizes the Scriptures are being proclaimed for them.
Because today’s readings are clear, it’s unlikely any one of us would claim the warnings and exhortations they contain don’t apply to us or feel they don’t deserve our serious consideration. These texts challenge us to accept responsibility for whatever befalls us when we rebuke God or fail to respond appropriately to His love, and encourage us to experience God’s peace by living virtuously.
Isaiah declares his song is of the Lord’s vineyard — the house of Israel — and maintains there was nothing more Yahweh could have done for the Israelites. The Lord expected His loving care and vigilant nurturing would have fostered goodness and righteousness, but was dismayed when He found only bloodshed, outcry and injustice. The prophet is filled with sadness as he alerts the Israelites to the ruin and hardships that await them.
Jesus’ directive, “Hear another parable,” at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel passage is addressed to the chief priests and elders; His message is for them. His stinging words at narrative’s end — “Did you never read in the Scriptures: the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone? …. Therefore I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit” — indicating they are the wretched tenants in the parable who will pay a heavy price because they rejected, mistreated or killed anyone the owner of the vineyard sent to obtain his produce at vintage time.
These same words reveal Our Lord’s displeasure with the way these religious leaders misused their authority and failed in their mission. As a result, God’s Kingdom and the blessings intended for them will be given to others more worthy and better disposed to doing God’s will.
Isaiah’s song and Matthew’s parable are wake-up calls which prompt us to examine our lives closely, acknowledge neglect as well as wrongdoing, and appreciate and put to greater use the gifts, talents and opportunities God freely bestows on us throughout our lives.
Thus motivated, we do well to heed Paul’s advice in Philippians to ask God to guide our efforts to transform our lives according to His will.
If we aspire to whatever is honorable, just, pure, gracious and excellent, we will be people of moral integrity and noble character, concerned about others, doing everything possible to bring about the righteousness and peace the Lord wants. We will be believers willing and prepared to witness to Gospel values. The Church needs such people if it is to fulfill its mission of building up the Kingdom of God and being an effective force for good in the world.
Convinced our witness is important, we call upon God to help us learn from past mistakes and give us more opportunities to serve Him faithfully in His Church. To help us persevere in our good intentions, we make our own the heartfelt entreaty from today’s Responsorial Psalm:
“Once again, O Lord of Hosts, look down from heaven, and see; take care of this vine and protect what your right hand has planted. Then we will no more withdraw from you. O Lord, God of Hosts, restore us; if your face shines upon us, then we shall be saved.”
How timely and relevant for our lives, how important for our spiritual growth and salvation is the message of today’s Scriptures! Let us listen to this message and be found worthy when the Lord comes so we can forever share in His Kingdom![hr]
Readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 80: 9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20
Matthew 21: 33-43
Father William R. Dulaney is a parochial vicar at St. Gregory the Great parish, Bellerose.