Sunday, 10/8/2017, Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Let the Weeds Grow
First Reading Commentary: Isaiah 5:1-6
What would you do when your garden became overgrown with weeds or what would you do if you had a vineyard which was being overgrown? Would you cut the weeds down when you mow and trim the lawn? Would you pull them up by the roots? Or would you simply let them be?
In today’s prophecy from Isaiah, the LORD says that He will let His vineyard be overgrown and trampled. The LORD says that He will not prune His vineyard and that He will command the clouds not to rain upon it. The LORD says that the house of Israel is the vineyard and that the people of Judah are his cherished plant. With the coming of Christ and His New Covenant, all who believe become the cherished plant.
This prophecy sounds harsh and it gives the impression that God does not care for His vineyard or His chosen people. It seems that God will allow His people to fail and to be overrun by evil. But once again, we have to stop and realize that God’s ways are not our ways and that God’s way of thinking is very different from our way of thinking.
If we were giving the best of care to our vineyard, we would get rid of the weeds. We would either use a weed killer or we would pull them up or we would do both. But God allows the weeds to grow. Why?
Part of the answer is in last week’s first reading from the prophet Ezekiel. God gives us the opportunity to change our minds and turn away from sin. God gives us the opportunity to repent and say, “I’m sorry.” With that opportunity, comes God’s limitless mercy and forgiveness. God does not want to deny us that opportunity. God would rather give us every chance to change our minds so that we can benefit from His mercy and forgiveness and so that He can bring us to Him. If God were to eliminate the weeds from His vineyard, His people would not have the freedom of choice.
God has taken great care in creating His vineyard and He has taken great care in giving us, His cherished plant, everything that we need to grow healthy and strong. One of our many gifts is our free will. With it, we have the ability to choose between good and evil and God does not interfere with our choice. Instead, He keeps reaching out to us, reminding us of His love for us.
It is up to us to choose His love or to allow ourselves to be overrun by the weeds of evil. We can take advantage of the opportunity that God gives us to change our minds or we can reject that opportunity. Anything that comes from God is a wonderful thing so take the opportunity!
Follow the Example
Second Reading Commentary: Philippians 4:6-9
St. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.” This might sound like a self-righteous attitude to someone who does not know Paul and the circumstances surrounding his conversion.
But Paul is one of the greatest examples in Scripture that we have of someone who changed his mind and turned away from evil. In fact, Paul did much more than change his mind. He accepted the mission that Christ gave him with obedience and humility. After his conversion, Paul thought like Christ, acted like Christ and became like Christ in every way up to and including allowing himself to be sacrificed.
All of this from a man; who was one of the Church’s most zealous persecutors. A man who was responsible, for the stoning of St. Stephen, the Church’s: first martyr. This was not because Paul did not believe in God. It was because Paul had allowed the weeds of evil to overtake him which made him blind to Christ. But once Paul’s eyes were opened, he changed his mind.
Many of us believe in God but our vision is blocked by the weeds around us and we loose our way. When this happens, our faith is damaged and we need help. This is one reason why it is important for us to go to church so that we can be nourished by God’s Word. This is also why it is important for us to follow the example of people like St. Paul.
Paul does not tell us to be like him out of arrogance. Paul tells us to be like him because he knows that if we are to be with God in heaven, we need to follow the example of and be like the Son and this is what Paul did and what Paul implores us to do.
There are many examples in Scripture for us to follow. There is David, the first Messianic king who also had blood on his hands. There is Peter, the Rock, who in his brokenness denied Christ three times. Maybe you can relate to one of the saints. Virtually all of them were guilty of sin, no matter how venial, but changed their minds. When something happens that challenges your faith, do not be discouraged. Instead, remember that you are in good company and look to someone like Paul and follow their example. If you do, there will be no need for anxiety. It will be easier to give God His praise thanking Him for all that is good and it will be easier to ask God, in faith, for His peace.
Clear the Weeds from your Vision
Gospel Commentary Matthew:21:23-43
Jesus told the chief priests and elders the parable of the man who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, built a tower and then leased it to tenant farmers. When the time came, he sent servants to collect the produce but the tenant farmers sent them away empty handed. Several times the owner sent servants and each time the tenant farmers either beat or killed the servants. Finally, the owner sent his son thinking that the tenants would respect him but they killed the son too. Jesus asked, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do?” They answered that the owner would put those wretched men to a wretched death and give the vineyard to others who would produce at proper times.
Then Jesus said, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?’ 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.”
The chief priests and elders were tenacious in their quest to persecute Jesus because of their evil pride. They wanted Jesus silenced because they wanted the people to listen only to what they had to say. They were jealous of Jesus and all of the works that He was performing. But they were unable to say or do anything at this time because the crowds were listening to Jesus. They wanted to arrest Jesus but feared the crowds so they went away.
The chief priests, and elders saw through the parable and knew that Jesus was talking about them. They were the religious leaders of the Jews and as such, they were the tenant farmers of Israel. God was the owner and the servants who the tenants beat and killed were the prophets. Jesus was the Son. When Jesus said that the kingdom of God would be taken away from them, He was giving them a warning. Jesus was telling them that unless they changed their ways, they would have no place in His Church and that they would not see heaven.
This parable was told by Jesus after His entry into Jerusalem so it was during Holy Week and the final days leading up to His Passion and Crucifixion. With His quote from Scripture regarding the cornerstone, Jesus told the chief priests and elders what would happen. A few days later, because of their evil pride and jealousy, they fulfilled the prophecy by putting Jesus to death.
But Jesus had also told them that the owner would transfer the vineyard to others. The new produce would be those who believe in the Son. The new tenant farmers would be the new religious leaders; the Apostles. Jesus instructed the Apostles to go and teach all nations which means that we are all part of the new vineyard; the New Israel.
Stop and meditate for a moment. Think of those who claim to be Christian leaders but tell others to stay away from some of the sacraments. Are they not like the chief priests, and elders in this gospel? The more we partake in the sacraments, the closer we get to Jesus. But when someone tells you something like, “You do not have to go to Confession,” they are telling you to stay away from the grace of that sacrament. They are telling you to not listen to Jesus, who instituted that sacrament, and the Apostles who told us to use it. There are many Christian preachers who do not understand that they are doing the same thing as the chief priests, and elders by not wanting people to adhere to everything that Christ said and did in the Gospels, including the two Gospels where Confession was instituted: Matthew 16:18-19 and John 20:21-23.
I know that this is not the intent of these Christian leaders and that most of them have sincere faith in Christ and their faith will not be overlooked by Him. But to these leaders and those who listen to them, I say study this gospel. Think about its message and take another look at your theology. Then consider the message of today's first reading from Isaiah and last week's first reading from Ezekiel. Clear the weeds from your vision and follow all of Christ.