27th Sunday O T Year A – 17
Is.5: 1-7, Phil 4: 6-9, Mt.21: 33-43
A lady answered the door to find a man standing there. He had a sad expression on his face. “I’m sorry to disturb you” he said, “I’m collecting money for an unfortunate family in the neighborhood.
The husband is out of work, the kids are hungry, and their utilities will soon be cut off. Worse yet, they’re going to be kicked out of their apartment if they don’t pay the rent by this afternoon.”
“I’ll be happy to help,” said the woman. Then she asked, “But who are you?” He replied, “I’m the landlord!”
The common theme of today’s readings is the necessity of bearing fruit in the Christian life and the consequent punishment for spiritual sterility, ingratitude and wickedness.
In today’s first reading, called “Isaiah’s Song of the Vineyard,” the prophet describes God’s care of, and expectations for, His Chosen People. God’s chosen people have failed to bear fruit in spite of the blessings lavished upon them by a loving and forgiving God.
Further, they have been poor tenants in the Lord’s vineyard. Hence, God laments: “I expected my vineyard to yield good grapes. Why did it yield sour ones instead?”
In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 80), the psalmist pleads with God to look down from Heaven and to “take care of this vine,” knowing that if any good is to come of the vine, it will be God’s doing and not the people’s.
In the second reading, Paul tells Philippians about the high expectations he has for them, reminding them that they need to become fruit-producing Christians by praying and giving thanks and by practicing justice, purity and graciousness in their lives.
Jesus, in today’s Gospel, reminds us that since we are the “new” Israel, enriched with additional blessings and provisions in the Church, we are expected to show our gratitude to God by bearing fruits of the Kingdom, that is, the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, in our lives.
The parable reflects the frictions in tenant-landlord relations in Palestine. Most of the vineyards were owned by rich, absentee landlords living in Jerusalem, Damascus or Rome who leased their lands to tenants and were interested only in collecting rent.
The country was seething with economic unrest. The working people were discontented and rebellious, and the tenant farmers had picked up the revolutionary slogan, “land for the farmer.”
Hence, they often refused to pay the rent previously agreed upon and in some cases assaulted the landowner’s representatives. It is natural, then, that Jesus’ parable should reflect the popular hatred of foreign domination and the monopolizing of agricultural land by a rich minority who supported Roman rule.
What’s the one of the big things that has preoccupied you & me since we were children and throughout all of the years that have followed? Isn’t it fear of rejection? Let us recall our early days as a child.
Even as a tiny baby you & me screamed, shrieked, and cried if you & me were not held, cuddled, and loved by our mothers and our fathers. As a child, you & me craved to play with playmates and you were miserable if they didn’t want to play with you.
And when you were a teenager? Well, words can’t begin to describe the pain and fear teenager experiences when faced with rejection.
With all of the rejection we give each other, and in the midst of all of the rejection we ourselves experience, do we ever stop and consider how God has been hurt by our rejection of His love for us?
Jesus looked out over Jerusalem and cried: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you refused!” Then they crucified him.
We don’t like to admit it, but many times we reject God. Oh, we deny that… but in fact we do. How many times has there been when we just couldn’t be bothered by God. How many people act as if God simply doesn’t matter?
Then there’s the matter of rejecting God’s forgiveness. We are simply ignorant of the horrific sin that it is, slapping God in the face, declaring that God, God’s love, God’s forgiveness, simply doesn’t matter; that we can’t be bothered with it.
How many people do we know who should be here with us at Mass but are not because they can’t be bothered, have more important things to do than to receive God’s love?
How can God forgive us if we think it doesn’t matter? The pain of rejection is horrible. That pain is made crystal clear and perfectly evident when we take a good look at the crucifix and understand its profound message, namely our rejection of God’s love for us.
That’s why there’s a human body hanging on it. It’s not an empty cross, it’s a cross loaded to the full, with rejection, the worst kind of pain that any of us can ever experience. The crucifix presents us with God is nailed and immobilized because we won’t listen to him!
There’s no defense against rejection. No words can deal with rejection.
There’s nothing we can do against it — which is perhaps why Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the personification of human judgment and rejection, and stood there in utter silence. Words simply cannot deal with the reality of rejection. Nothing can.
The parable we just heard in the Gospel is more than just a parable about us. It is, rather, a glimpse into God’s heart. It tells us about how He feels, about the hurt and pain He experiences at our hands.
So, when you are experiencing rejection, and when the fear of rejection is overpowering within you, give some time to being alone with Christ. He’s here for you all of the time, twenty-four hours a day. He’s here in the Mass. He’s here in the Blessed Sacrament.
He’s here in His house waiting for you to come and visit Him. Why not pay Him a visit from time to time? Why not come here and spend some time with Him? He’d love that, you know.
He’d love to have someone come and give Him some time alone with Him, along with some words of love for Him. He knows rejection, and in His infinite love and caring for us, He gives us His power to overcome rejection and know what it is to love and be loved in return.
Be Blessed and Be a Blessing. Amen.