On this 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we hear of the Providential Goodness of God. He is like the landowner who planted a vineyard. He chose a fertile hillside, prepared the soil, planted the choicest vines, put a hedge around it, hewed out a wine press, built a watchtower, and looked for the crop of grapes. (Isaiah 5:1-7; Matthew 21:33-43)
The Psalm today (Psalm 80) tells us that the vineyard of the Lord is the House of Israel. We are the vineyard of the Lord. We are the one’s whom God has cared for with tenderness and abundant blessings. To us he has sent not only prophets to guide us but out of the greatness of his love, he has sent us his only begotten Son. We are the people from whom he awaits good fruit. God has high hopes for us!
In Isaiah’s account, the vineyard produced wild grapes, rather than the high quality that was planted. In Matthew’s Gospel, the parable of Jesus speaks of workers who selfishly withheld the harvest from the landowner, going so far as to mistreat, even kill those whom he sent to obtain the produce.
One common theme between these two accounts is the sinfulness of humanity. There is a capacity in the human heart for subverting the justice of God; the goodness of God. But, Jesus instructs the chief priests and elders in today’s Gospel that the justice of God will not be defeated, and that mercy is God’s greatest power.
When asked what the owner of the vineyard will do to those tenants, the chief priests and elders respond: “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.” (Mt 21:41). To which Jesus responds: “did you never read in 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?'”
As Pope Francis said in today’s Angelus Address, there is a new wine in God’s vineyard, and it is called Mercy.
How often in the church today are we like the chief priest and elders? Does the way we live our Catholic faith make others feel inferior? so they dare not approach us, or worse still, that they depart from us? Or does our faith reflect the warmth and compassion of Christ?
Are we willing to use terms like ‘good Catholics’ and ‘bad Catholics’? Or do we simply strive to grow in holiness as a model for others?
Do we condemn others for their actions or beliefs, never allowing for the possibility of conversion? or lend an understanding ear or offer a compassionate word of instruction to accompany them in their present state so as to help them advance in the faith?
Do we strive to build up the Body of Christ? Are we agents of unity in the Church? Do we truly wish to advance the Kingdom of God?
Are we a people of hope, who know that we are sinners, who know we have been forgiven and redeemed by the unmerited love and Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ?
Is our focus on all that is wrong in the Church and world today? or as St. Paul instructs, do we think rather of what is true, honorable, just, gracious, excellent, whatever is worthy of praise? (Philippians 4:8-9)
St. Paul himself is an example of the conversion from one who went about condemning and persecuting the faith, to one who, having encountered Christ and his mercy, spent the rest of his days proclaiming the Gospel of Good News. St. Paul is a model of transitioning from one who was looking for those in error, to proclaiming a Gospel of hope and a life of faith in Jesus Christ.
Each one of us is precious in the eyes of God. To each and every person, God sends his Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the New Wine of Mercy because he has ushered in the New and Eternal Covenant. It is the Blood of Jesus that was shed for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the ‘good fruit’ of God’s vineyard, and through the Church, through His Word, and through the Sacraments, he has grafted us to himself, so that we too might bear the good fruit of the new and everlasting covenant, the fruit of mercy.
This is our mission – the mission of the Church – to bear Christ to the world.
We are called to reflect the mercy of God.