In this Sunday’s Readings, we are given quite a neat and clear theme that runs through: The Lord’s vineyard.
In our First Reading, taken from the prophet Isaiah, we get the Lord speaking about His vineyard that He planted. But what vineyard did God plant?
As the Lord Himself says towards the end of the Reading:
Yes, the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the House of Israel, and the men of Judah that chosen plant.
“Israel” here refers to the northern tribes of the larger kingdom of Israel (the northern tribes and the whole kingdom of the north and south together are both named “Israel.” Yes, confusing.) and the “men of Judah” refer to the men of the southern tribe of Judah (and Benjamin). In sum, the vineyard is the whole kingdom of Israel.
The Lord made this kingdom from Jacob, whom He named “Israel,” and his twelves sons (remember that story about Joseph and the coat?—Joseph and his brothers were the sons!). They were taken to Egypt because of a worldwide famine that Egypt was more prepared for (thanks to Joseph!) and there, the Lord “found good soil” to plant His small vineyard.
Eventually, that plant grew pretty big and was beginning to be choked by the thorns of Egypt’s pagan ways, so the Lord liberated His vineyard and brought them (not without difficulty—these are the books of Exodus all the way to Joshua) to the Promised Land where His plant could fully flourish!
However, His vineyard, made up of human beings with free will, were continuously turning their backs on Him and falling into pagan ways and so the Lord says this in our First Reading:
Very well, I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge for it to be grazed on, and knock down its wall for it to be trampled on. I will lay it waste, unpruned, un-dug; overgrown by the briar and the thorn. I will command the clouds to rain no rain on it.
The Lord is going to let them face the full consequences of their sins. This finally happens when the Assyrian’s capture the northern tribes and the Babylonians capture the southern tribe and exile them to their respective lands. Once again, Israel finds itself captive in a foreign pagan land. This time, eventually, only the southern tribe makes it back. This southern tribe make up the Jews that Christ comes from and lives among.
Jesus, in our Gospel, gives a parable to the Jews He’s speaking to. He uses the very same words to describe the vineyard as Isaiah uses in our First Reading so that the Jews will see that He’s making reference to that very passage (the Jew’s He spoke to knew their Scriptures—our Old Testament—very well). He says:
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, “Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son’ he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.’ So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’… ‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’
Jesus, i.e. God, once again is unhappy with His vineyard—the Jews—and clearly tells them that they have lost their right to be part of the Lord’s vineyard and that the vineyard will be entrusted to those who can bear good fruit. As we know, the Lord entrusts His vineyard to the leaders of the New Covenant, the New Kingdom of God, the leaders of the Church—the Catholic Church.
We who live in this vineyard by God’s mercy and grace now have the task, with His help, to bear good fruit. Faith, hope, and charity are given to us by the Holy Spirit from the Sacraments and they move us to a supernatural love as we work in the supernatural vineyard of the Lord!
This is why St Paul urges us in our Second Reading this Sunday to worry about nothing! Anxiety is incompatible with Christianity (that doesn’t mean that you’re not a Christian if you’re ever anxious. It just means we need to bring ourselves to the Lord even more). St Paul urges us, instead of being anxious, to bear good fruit:
Finally, brothers, fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise. Keep doing all the things that you learnt from me and have been taught by me and have heard or seen that I do. Then the God of peace will be with you.
This Sunday, as every Sunday, the Lord gives Himself to us whole and entire in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, the Eucharist, which is sufficient to help us bear all kinds of fruit! It just depends on how much you’re willing to let Him work in you.
With the Psalm we can cry out for good fruit, “Visit the vine and protect it, the vine your right hand has planted… give us life that we may call upon your name… Let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.”
See you next week on Seeking the Word!
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