5 October 2008 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 5, 1-7; Psalm 80; Phil 4, 6-9; Mathew 21, 33-43
A note before we begin: The responsorial psalm between readings at mass functions as a bridge from the first reading to the next. The psalm summarizes the meaning of the readings and foster meditation on the word of God. As a psalm, therefore, it is meant to be sung.
The responsorial psalm today provides us with the setting of the readings: “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.” The first reading is a song, sung by a friend. It is a parable, like the many parables of Nathan the prophet or of Jesus as in the Gospel today. The speaker does not disclose his real subject but leads his listeners to pass judgment before they realize that they are passing judgment on themselves.
The vineyard in Israel is a very valuable property that contributed to the luxurious life of the people involved in it. It was also a symbolism of the wealth of the land. In the song of the vineyard, the owner had the vineyard on a “fertile hillside” and done everything for it to produce quality yield. He even built a watchtower to protect it and a wine press, obviously, to produce good wine --- a favorite both in ordinary meals or extravagant celebrations. Unfortunately, it produced “wild grapes.” The parable suggests that this wealth has not produced a just society. Literally, the threat that the vineyard would be overgrown by thorns and wild grass was fulfilled when Assyria invaded Israel. When they were exiled to Babylon, they looked back at their life and yearned for it. In Babylon, they suffered. And their suffering led them to realize how they have lived a better life in Jerusalem and wasted all of them away.
There are many things in our lives that we do not realize unless it was been taken away from us. We feel sad and disappointed over something that has happened and been done especially when there is a loss or missed opportunity. How many students never realize how important study habits are unless they failed in an exam? How many of my students who ‘lived the luxurious life catching up with the Joneses’ repented when they were asked to transfer to another school? In addition, how many relationships did we let go of because of a trivial hurt? We regret a good friendship when we have drifted apart from them. Often, remorse comes when it is too late.
God provides us with everything we need to be better individuals. The fertile vineyard symbolizes all the conditions we need to be fruitful. The essential conditions are already there: but it needs the participation and cooperation of each individual. Whatever failure we have and who we are today (especially when we do not like what we have become) can be traced, not from God’s lack, but from our unwillingness to cooperate.