"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "

27th SUNDAY (A) October 8, 2017

Isaiah 5: 1-7; Psalm 80; Philippians 4: 6-9; Matthew 21: 33-43

by Jude Siciliano, OP

Dear Preachers:

 

The 27th

Sunday of

Ordinary

Time

These past two Sundays we have heard gospel parables about vineyards. First there were the workers who were called into the vineyard and worked different hours of the day, but still received the same pay. Then, last week, the father asked his two sons to work in the vineyard. One agreed to go but did not: at first the second resisted, but changed his mind and did as his father requested.

Today an absent land owner sends his servants to collect produce from his vineyard. But they are abused by the tenants, who even kill the owner’s son. In this country vineyards were usually just in a few wine-producing states. Now, there are so many states that grow wine grapes that there is even a ranking for the top 10 – though California still produces 90% of the wine in this country. The love of wine and the care of vineyards goes back to ancient times and that is the backdrop in today’s readings.

In scriptures, the parables of the vineyard are allegorized and vineyards are symbols for God’s people. In the first reading Isaiah’s song of the vineyard sounds like a simple image of country life. A vineyard is carefully and lovingly planted. But then the tone changes, as the owner goes looking for grapes..., "but what it yielded was wild grapes." What began as a lovely festival song becomes a warning about God’s judgment on the chosen people. Which directs us to the gospel.

Jesus is addressing the religious leaders, the priests and elders of the people. There are also strong allegorical features in the parable. The vineyard is Israel; the tenants, the religious leaders; the series of servants, the prophets; the son, Jesus the Messiah; his murder, the crucifixion. But after the parable Jesus quotes Psalm 118 (verse2) which hints at the resurrection. "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, it is wonderful in our eyes!"

Reginald Fuller ("Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today") has an interesting take on the parable. He suggests it is "all too easy for the church to allegorize this parable" (page 177). Instead, he notes, Matthew adds the closing verse 43, which points to the mission and responsibility of the Gentiles after Israel’s rejection of the gospel. Fuller also notes that the extreme behavior of the tenants suggests that we Christians are to be as resolute as the tenants were in our grasping and holding on to the kingdom of God. It is a different approach. If the preacher chooses to take it, we will have to be careful not to suggest violent action, but the determination and energy to hold on to the valuable gift God offers us.

This is another parable in which we must be careful not to heap blame on the Jews for not accepting Christ, the owner’s son. The parable speaks to whomever has responsibility in God’s vineyard. The kingdom has been entrusted to all of us: parents, teachers, volunteers, ordained ministers of the church etc. The parable becomes an examination of conscience for us. How have we received and treasured the Good News of God’s kingdom? Have we workers in the vineyard brought forth a harvest of good fruit?

We are not called upon to establish a triumphant church in the world. We are a minority religion and may remain so. Rather, we must live the gospel as faithfully as we can and, through our lives, make Christ present everywhere. As the parable suggests, our times are urgent. Each day a reckoning is asked of us – to bear fruit in the part of the vineyard to which we have been sent.

I am not sure what will be taken away from us if we are not trustworthy stewards. By not being responsible to our call as disciples, will we have divided interests, too focused on immediate gain and pleasure with no view to what lasts? Will the talents that each of us has been given to serve just dry up from lack of use? Will the lack of vision that serving God offers, result in our being distracted and divided, instead of our being people of vision and determination?

The parable has an urgency to it. It reminds us that an accounting of our service will be required of us. We will be asked for fruit. The judgment is not just for some future time, but is present right now. That is why the parable, like all the others, is a grace. It is a wake up call urging us to pay attention to our primary tasks, to reorient our lives towards what is important and of lasting value for us.

Jesus asks the religious leaders what they think the owner should do to the wicked tenants. They respond that the tenants should be punished. But Jesus isn’t telling them a parable for their mere speculation. They fail to see themselves in the parable and so they missed the grace for conversion that Jesus was offering them.

What other fruits are we to produce from the vineyard? A look to the Isaiah passage helps us. Isaiah tells us that God was looking for judgment, but found bloodshed; for justice, "but hark the outcry." A central mandate throughout the Hebrew texts calls for the establishment of justice and righteousness. In other words, God wants justice for the people and the rights of every one respected, especially those who are poor and the least in society.

So, in our own country’s debate over healthcare we ask, how will the sick and vulnerable be protected? Will God find in our nation just judgment for all? For example, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops suggests a path to justice and right judgment during this time of debate over healthcare. In a letter to the Senate regarding the Affordable Care Act, Bishop Mark Dewane, the chair of the bishops’ Committee on Justice and Human Development wrote:
"The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops urges you to oppose any effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a concurrent replacement plan that protects poor and vulnerable people, including immigrants, safeguards the unborn, and supports conscience rights."

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/100817.cfm

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

"What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?"

Isaiah 5: 4

When it comes to care of creation, unlike the landlord in this vineyard story, we have been woefully remiss in its care and we have exacerbated climate change by our arrogance. We may have viewed clear-cutting a tree-filled property as progress; we may love the convenience of miles and miles of super highways and strip malls with vast concrete parking lots; we may cherish our beachfront property built on shifting sands; we may view recycling as an inconvenience; we may say nothing when corporations dump waste into our rivers and streams, discharge chemicals into our air, and cut off mountain tops for profit. As Pope Francis states, "We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she ‘groans in travail’ (Rom 8:22)" (Laudato Si’, 2). The environmental challenge that we are experiencing, and its human causes, affects us all (cf. Laudato Si’, 14) and demands our response. We can no longer remain silent before one of the greatest environmental crises in world history" (2/15/16). What did we do to our vineyard? We cannot deny what is happening.

Pope Francis shares these additional reflections: "First, the ecological crisis is real. ‘A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.’[6] Science is not the only form of knowledge, it is true. It is also true that science is not necessarily ‘neutral’—many times it conceals ideological views or economic interests. However, we also know what happens when we deny science and disregard the voice of Nature. I make my own everything that concerns us as Catholics. Let us not fall into denial. Time is running out. Let us act. I ask you again—all of you, people of all backgrounds including native people, pastors, political leaders—to defend Creation" (2/10/17). We can do better, we have to do better, for all the generations to come.

Interested in being part of a new Care of Creation ministry, contact socialconcern@hnojnc.org

---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral

Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

[Jesus said]

"Therefore, I say to you,

the kingdom of God will be taken away from you

and given to a people that will produce its fruit."

Reflection:

An accounting of our service will be required of us. We will be asked for fruit. The judgment is not just for some future time, but is present right now. The parable is a wake up call urging us to pay attention to our primary tasks and to reorient our lives towards what is important and of lasting value for us.

So we ask ourselves:

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"The use of the death penalty cannot really be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

DONATIONS

"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at jboll@opsouth.org.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: http://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage:  http://www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

(These CDs have been updated twice in the last five years.)

2. "Homilias Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at Jboll@opsouth.org.

3. Our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilias Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.

 


Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.

St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626