Let me now sing of my friend, my friend’s song concerning his vineyard. My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes. Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done? Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? Now, I will let you know what I mean to do with my vineyard: take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled! Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed, but overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds not to send rain upon it. The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!
Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “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.”
Jesus has really strong words today in the Gospel from Saint Matthew. We can think that these words are directed to others, but we should also realize that the Gospel is always written for me personally and directed to me personally. The things that we find in the Scriptures are both general and sometimes historical, but always written for my personal conversion and daily struggle to be faithful.
Each one of us is the vineyard of the Lord. It is we ourselves who keep the Lord out and do not allow Him to transform us. We find so many excuses to keep our lives for ourselves and not to seek God’s will in our lives. How often we find excuses to avoid the demands of the Gospel! How often we find ways to make our lives easier and to avoid the Cross of the Lord.
This truth about ourselves should not discourage us. All we ever need to do is see the truth about ourselves and ask God to pardon us and heal us—and God is there for us.
The first reading today from the Prophet Isaiah tells us the background of this story of the vineyard. This is the same in every age of history. We should not think that because we have seen the Lord, that we are different. We may know God’s love for us in Christ Jesus, but we still find ourselves as sinners.
When we hear the second reading, from the Letter to the Philippians, we can find some comfort: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
This is our spiritual life: the following of Jesus. As we follow Jesus, we find that we betray Him. Yet we know His forgiveness. Never should we think that our Christian life is simply a life of suffering and of sin. Rather, we live lives that are redeemed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Scriptures help us understand how sin can be at work in us and yet God’s power of salvation is stronger than sin. While we need never fear sin because Jesus has destroyed death, we can come to respect the power of sin in our lives and seek to let the power of Jesus conquer all within us that still clings to death and to the pleasures of this world.
The challenge is at the end of the Gospel: bear the fruit of holiness! That means that if we strive to remain in Christ and to renounce our sin, the fruits of the Holy Spirit can finally be seen in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Let us strive for holiness even as we recognize our predisposition to sin. May the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen the Holy Spirit within us to the glory of the Father.