Sunday, October 5, 2014

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - "The Lord Planted a Vineyard"

OT – 27th Sunday                  The Lord Planted a Vineyard                         October 5, 2014
Is 5:1-7                       Ps 80              Phil 4:6-9                   Mt 21:33-43

For the past three weeks we have been listening to parables of the vineyard from the latter parts of the gospel of Matthew.  These occur as a series of teachings about the Mercy of God and the Judgment of God.  From the past two Sundays and today we have been hearing about this vineyard.  The vineyard symbolizes the Kingdom of God.  The Owner symbolizes God.  And the workers or tenants are the people of the world.  Each time in the parables we encounter a landowner who generously calls us to produce the fruit of the vineyard.  And each time there are those who say “yes” to work in the vineyard, and others who say “no.” In these parables of the vineyard we also find the theme of God’s judgment upon those who say “no.”

In today’s parable of the vineyard, we hear Jesus pronounce a judgment upon the hearers that uses their own words of judgment.  It is chilling to hear.  Jesus tells them plainly that “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” 
This judgment did, in fact, occur in history.   It began with the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The disciples of Jesus received the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and began walking in the gifts of
the Holy Spirit.  They lived the fruit of the Holy Spirit as they grew in holiness.  As people began experiencing the power of this life in the Spirit, more people were converted and began following Jesus and His Church. 

Meanwhile, the religious authorities of Jerusalem began an intense persecution of the Church.  For nearly 40 years this continued.  In their pride the authorities in Jerusalem challenged Rome and sought to overthrow its rule.  Rome responded with a great army that besieged Jerusalem, conquered it, burned it, and killed and scattered the inhabitants.  In the Book of Revelation the city of Jerusalem was called Mystery Babylon.  This was the evil city that made war on the saints and then was burned with fire and utterly destroyed. 

Now, today’s homily isn’t just a history lesson.  These parables are important for us today.  The setting of the message isn’t just Jerusalem and the near east.  The setting also involves the Church and the World of Today.  The call of the Lord is increasingly urgent to us.  He calls us to give a full “yes” to work in the vineyard and produce its fruit.

For those who are willing to accept the messages of private revelation approved by the church, consider the private revelations and prophecies in modern times.  The apparitions of the Blessed Mother at Lourdes, Fatima, Akita, and Kibeho – all approved by the church as worthy for our belief – were calls to the people of today to prayer and conversion.  And they all also warned of a coming Chastisement upon the world.  Chastisements that would be a direct result of the world’s rejection of God’s call to conversion and holiness.

The apparition of Our Lady in Kibeho, Rwanda, was chillingly accurate.  She appeared to a group of children on several occasions, calling people in that country to prayer and conversion, and warning of a terrible bloodshed and genocide if they did not convert.  Sure enough, in 1994 the “rivers of blood” which were predicted came to pass.  But let the reader take note, in the prophecies of Kibeho, the seer Alphonsine said that not only Rwanda but the whole world, faced an abyss and catastrophe.  
The alleged apparitions in Medjugorje, while not yet approved by the church because they are ongoing, speak of similar themes; a call to prayer and conversion, a prophecy of chastisement upon the world because of its sins, and a coming Era of Peace after God has judged the world because of its sins.

These themes are found in Sacred Scripture, particularly the 25th chapter of Matthew and the entirety of the Book of Revelation.  They are also found in the Teaching of the Church.  The Catechism speaks of the Church following Our Lord in facing her own Good Friday prior to the triumph at the end of the era.

If one is skeptical of the prophecies that come from private revelation or scripture, then one can certainly also look to the secular writings of economists, who warn of a coming financial collapse due to the enormous mounting debt of so many countries.  Or one can look to the medical community who speak of the cycles of pandemics in history and how we are overdue for another sweeping pandemic.  Or one can look to those who study military history and who talk of cycles of war.  There are quite enough harbingers of doom out there to make us all pause and consider our near future.

What do we do with all that?  First of all, I think we can go ahead and admit that such things will indeed come.  In so many ways they are self-fulfilling prophecies.  What we do as a collective human family in the world today will cause its own chastisement.  Cause and effect is a universal law, and there is no escaping it.

Secondly and more importantly, in light of all this we must remember God’s primary motivation on our behalf.  Remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John chapter 3.  “God loves the world so much that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in him might not perish, but might have eternal life.”  God’s primary motivation toward us is love!  God’s primary desire for us is our salvation.  

Even when we see the great storm of all these events taking place, let us be determined to fix the truth of God’s love for us firmly in our minds.  This will help us to place our full trust in Jesus, who is our hope of salvation.  After all, the best part of these prophecies is the Triumph and the coming Era of Peace.  It is a sure promise, and something for which we wait in joyful hope.

In the meantime, prayer, conversion, and producing the fruit of the kingdom are the call of Jesus to us today.  This has its own joy, whatever else may occur.  I close today with the words of St. Paul from his letter to the Philippians.  They also are a true call and a true prophecy that will surpass whatever else may occur.  Listen to these words once again.

“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.”

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