27th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 4 October 2020

Mass Readings: I. Isaiah 5:1-7; Responsorial: Psalm 80; II: Philippians 4:6-9; Gospel: Matthew 21:33-43

Anyone who lives in wine country in any part of the world is blessed in a very special way. The beauty cannot be denied. The weather is (usually) mild and enjoyable. And the fruit of the harvest is a source of great joy and pleasure. However there is one blessing that is often overlooked. We are able to see, to live amongst what is one of the most popular metaphors Jesus used in the Gospels and that is used throughout Scripture.

This Sunday we read lessons of the great and holy call God’s people share as a part of God’s vineyard. From the first reading from the prophet Isaiah to the Gospel this theme is expressed with clarity and warnings. For both the prophet and Jesus in the Gospel state that the holy privilege to be a part of God’s vineyard comes with expectations from God. God’s love for the world is unconditional. As the Father gave His Son to die on the cross it was freely given to free us all to be a part of God’s Kingdom, God’s vineyard. While this great gift is unconditional it is a gift of LIFE. It is a gift meant to be..LIVED, faithfully, fruitfully in the same love in which it is given. To deny that life, that holy, joyful impulse to be fruitful for God is to essentially deny our place in the vineyard. It would be the same as if a healthy beautiful rose did not bloom. Or a healthy robust grapevine that would not bear grapes. But what does it mean to be fruitful, growing abundantly in God’s vineyard?

The Holy Spirit, in our second reading gives us insight. To be growing in the vineyard of our Lord does not mean a physical or temporal place or entity. While a metaphor is used in our readings it expresses a very important reality. God’s vineyard is very real. Spiritually. It is in the second reading we understand this. It is a place of faith, growing in prayer. It is a place of deep peace, that surpasses all physical, earthly understanding (and turmoil). It is a place of growing in God, even in times of great testing or sadness. It is vital to remember that these words of St. Paul, shared first with the faithful in Philippi were written from a place where Paul experienced great persecution, beating, jailing and an earthquake. The church in that Greek city would also know major trials for their faith. But is in the Vineyard of God, amidst those trials, that God’s peace, power, God’s Presence grew.

This Sunday is also October 4th. It is the Solemnity of St. Francis of Assisi. And it is in the life of this intensely humble saint who grew up among the vineyards of Assisi that we see a very powerful example of someone fruitful for God working in the vineyard of our Lord. Francis, once the grace of God came alive in his awakening to Jesus never stopped growing in love with His Savior. This love grew to embrace poverty so that nothing would come between him and Jesus. This love grew to see Jesus not just in those understood to be holy but in the poor, the unwell. It was this love for God that grew to see that all creation, all creatures, were a part of this holy vineyard to which Francis had been brought. And it was among the holy vines of the Gospel that Francis shared a simplicity of fervent faith that inspires to this day. He once said:

“Lord, help me to live this day, quietly, easily. To lean upon Thy great strength, trustfully, restfully. To wait for the unfolding of Thy will, patiently, serenely. To meet others, peacefully, joyously. To face tomorrow, confidently, courageously.”…..“We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.”

And it was Francis who would remind us of one of the most crucial truths of the holy beautiful vineyard. It is eternal. What we do, the fruit we bring is meant for God, for each other, for eternity. Again the words of Francis help us: “Keep a clear eye toward life’s end. Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s creature. What you are in His sight is what you are and nothing more. Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing you have received, but only what you have given; a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.”

Again in the words of St. Francis; Pax et bonum. Peace and all good. Together, with all the saints, let us grow in God’s vineyard.