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Contents: Volume 2 - Twentieth Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – October 8, 2017


 

The

27th

Sunday

2017

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Barbara Cooper, OP

3. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

4. -- Brian Gleeson CP

5. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

6. – (Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Sun. 27 A

Our readings this Sunday seem to have different tones. The messages of the two parables seem not altogether clear upon their first reading. What is it then that we are supposed to bring into our lives from these readings?

In the first reading from the book of Isaiah, we read that in spite of the careful attention that is given to nourishing the vineyard, the outcome is far less than desirable. The questions, frustration, and anger of the owner are all understandable. It reminds me of some parents' reaction when their almost grown children stray far, far away from how they were raised. How will things end?

In the Gospel parable about the vineyard, it is the tenants who refuse to bring forth the fruits of the vineyard to the owner. They even kill the owner's son in arrogant defiance. The owner is poised for understandable retribution against such violence.

In both cases, however, there is a glimpse of hope. The justice of the first parable is tempered by mercy in the second. The vineyard, the Kingdom of God on earth, will not be destroyed, but given to a people who will produce its fruit.

WE are that people!! We have been given a second chance (and most of us a third and a fourth.....) The actual Second Chance is Jesus, the suffering Jesus, who became the Risen Jesus.

In the second reading, the Letter to the Phillippians, we are told what to do with this good fortune, this Good News. We are also told how to react to whatever calamity befalls us. We are told how to act in order to produce good fruit.

In our day and age, we, too, have many questions, frustrations and even anger about what we see and hear and even experience in the form of unexpected evil and willful neglect. In my opinion, I think we need to identify the problem(s), pray a lot, and then take the advice of the second reading about our focus. Identify the evils but think more about what is worthy of praise. Dwelling on the negative gets us stuck there in the muck and mire where fruit can not and does not grow.

Our focus needs to be to "Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen". Keep being an authentic Christian who cares about people the way Jesus did... and act the same way! Only then will the peace of God/the God of peace and what "is wonderful in our eyes" come to reside in our hearts and eventually, more and more in our world.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – October 8, 2017

Those of us who garden know how special and precious that plot of land is to us. We've given time and effort to digging up the weeds, screening out stones, nurturing and improving the earth, building a fence to keep out deer and other animals, planting the best seeds, watering and watching and hoping for good weather. Sometimes when I look at my garden, my mouth waters and I feel satisfaction, anticipation of ripe crops that taste good and are nourishing for me and those I share with.

Sharing is a part of the joy. To pick some of the best, clean it, pack it, and take it to someone as a gift. Have you ever taken a gift you thought precious and special, presented it to another, and had them mutter: "Oh yeah, thanks.", lay it carelessly aside, and close the door.

Jesus tells a story today about a farmer who creates a marvellous vineyard. When he leaves town he rents it out to tenants, it seems with an expectation that they will protect his share of the harvest and give it to him at the end of the season. But when the time comes, the tenants beat, and even kill the landlord's servants. He seems to be very optimistic about human behaviour and finally sends his son to collect the rent. But the tenants are so obsessed with their control of the estate that they kill the son as well, expecting to take over his inheritance.

Then Jesus asks a seemingly silly question: "What do you think the landlord will do when he gets home?"

A vineyard was and is often associated with the people of Israel. Today's Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 80) is a good example of this. I take this loosely, since I don't believe God favours one nation more than another, but that all are beloved of our Creator and each brings a valuable contribution to the world.

That image of "vineyard" is tied in with one of the final sentences in this story. "The kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to those who will bear its' fruit."

Rather than develop these images, I'll leave you to reflect on yourself as part of God's vineyard. What kind of branch of the Vine are you? Are you rich with the fruit of God's domain in you? What thorns might be growing and choking out compassion? What fertilizer needs to be dug in for more fruitfulness?

What kind of song will be sung for your vineyard?

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

For an interesting article about vineyards in the Bible:

http://www.bible-history.com/links.php?cat=39&sub=718

 

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Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordered Time, October 8 2017

Isaiah 5:1-7; Responsorial Psalm 80; Philippians 4:6-9; Gospel Acclamation John 15-16; Matthew 21:33-43

The first reading this Sunday from the Prophet Isaiah and the Gospel from Matthew are remarkably similar. Both compare the work of God among humanity to a vineyard. The founding of the vineyard in Isaiah is from the hand of God and God himself plants it, tills the soil, and sets up protective walls. When harvest time comes, however, in place of luscious, juicy grapes, only wild grapes, small, bitter, and useless for the pressing of wine. In Matthew’s gospel parable, God is the owner of the vineyard. He has planted it, installed a hedge and a protective tower over it. In anticipation of a wonderful harvest he dug a winepress. In this parable, God leases the vineyard to tenants. At harvest time the owner sends servants to collect what is due the owner of the vineyard. These servants are treated shamefully, beaten, murdered, and stoned. Again the owner sent other servants. They were treated in the same manner. Finally the owner decided to send his own son. The tenants thought by murdering this heir they would acquire ownership of the vineyard.

The story in Isaiah is from the first book of Isaiah, prophecy written before the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and of the Temple of Solomon. It was before the people of Judah were taken as slaves in exile to the great city of Babylon. It was a warning to the people that God would leave the nation to its own devices. They would truly be overrun and the city destroyed. The inhabitants would be slaughtered. The streets ran with the blood of children, their mothers, servants and elite alike. The men were cut down as they sought to defend their families. Isaiah blames this on the fruit of the vineyard. The faith of the nation produced only small, bitter, wild grapes. Isaiah paints an image of a wonderful harvest of grapes as a symbol of the joy and harmony of the people, of the justice and righteousness practiced by the chosen people. In failing to live in the power of their faith, they failed in their faith. The image of wild grapes used by Isaiah is symbols of the bitterness and discord in the people, of bloodshed and outcry that engulfed their daily lives. Failing in their faith in the planter of the vineyard provided only wildness and hatred and self-destruction. The Responsorial Psalm this Sunday helps us understand Isaiah’s message. God had taken the vine from Egypt. Literally, God freed their Hebrew ancestors from bondage in Egypt and transplanted them in a land promised to their patriarchs. But the people forgot and put their faith in political power, in military preparedness, in diplomatic maneuverings. Their efforts were no longer based on God’s presence with them. And as the psalm prays as we should also pray: "Once again, O Lord of Hosts, look down from heaven and see; take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted, the son of man whom you yourself made strong. Then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name. O Lord, God of hosts, restore us; if your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved."

In our time as well as in the time of Isaiah, we can pray this Psalm Prayer with conviction, with longing, begging for help. Just as in the time of Isaiah, the infighting in Jerusalem, the bitterness and discord between the city-dwelling merchants, bankers, and manufacturers and the anxiety and exclusion of rural agricultural persons, the poor and working people divides us and weakens our faith in the presence of God. Even now, twenty seven hundred years later, we continue that discord and bitterness. Those seeking to govern us use dissention, hatred, and fear of others as a clear and effective method of gaining power. This remains true in every nation.

In the time of Isaiah, there were threats from Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon against the nation God formed. In our time there are wars and rumors of wars that rob us of our youths and of hard earned assets; much of our wealth is funneled into instruments of war that set us against other nations. In every nation there is battle between the haves and the have-nots. Just as in the time of Isaiah, those who had the vision to see above the little conflicts within their nation understood the national peril that existed, coming ever closer. Those in power thought to save themselves by allegiances with thieves, charlatans, and dictators. In the end, the hope of the nation, the peace of the City of Jerusalem, and the abiding presence of God in the Temple was destroyed.

Are we not in a similar perilous condition in our day? Read the newspapers: watch the evening news: see the violence and discord in the streets of every nation. Where is there hope for joy, harmony, and brotherhood? Where can we find selfless pursuit of justice and righteousness for our communities, our nation, our world?

The scene in the gospel is placed in Jerusalem. Jesus is already in the city, has already rid the Temple of the money changers, the sellers of livestock and fowl for temple sacrifices. Jesus speaks this parable to the Elders and Chief Priests. These elders and Chief Priests made a portion of their livelihood from the economy of the Temple. They received income from the money changers and livestock sellers since they were the Temple’s managers. They were not pleased when Jesus threw the vendors out of the temple.

Jesus tells the Isaiah vineyard parable to criticize the Elders and Chief Priests for their failure to teach, to lead by example, and to live the message of the Law of Moses. These religious leaders taught compliance with the law as salvation. That was how those leaders cared and nurtured and developed the vineyard God gave to their care. These tenants of God’s vineyard were self-serving. They make their own the fruits of compliance to the Law of Moses. Instead of growing the faith in the hearts of the people, the Elders and Chief Priests lined their pockets using religion as the product they sold. They subverted their office, their responsibility and turned into a profitable enterprise from themselves. And Jesus predicts they will kill him who comes as the Son of the God they claim to worship. And so they did. Caiphas is quoted as saying, "Is it not better than one man die than that the nation be destroyed?"

Jesus warns them. It’s not a threat, but a foretelling of what will happen because of their perfidy. This gospel has been used over the centuries as the justification for the murder, ethnic cleansing, and hatred of the Jews. They have been labeled "God-Killers", they have been portrayed as willing to sell their souls for gold. They have been portrayed as a scourge on the human race. In the last century Hitler used this to kill more than six million men, women and children. And much of the Church was complicit in the persecution of the Jews. Pope John XXIII interrupted a Good Friday prayer for the ‘perfidious Jews’ and insisted we pray for the Jews as our ancestors in faith. It was a dramatic move that shocked the attending Church into reconsidering their faith. It had taken nearly two thousand years to right this wrong. Matthew tells us the leadership in the growth and nurture of the Kingdom of God is taken from the religious leaders of Judah. This is not a condemnation of their Faith, only a change in faith leadership. This transfer was not to any nation, any tribe, any community. All nations are invited to grow the Kingdom of God, to produce good grapes, luscious, full of flavor and sweetness so as to lift up and to enliven the hearts of all mankind. For it is only with faith that human life is able to endure: it is only with faith that mankind discovers its meaning and purpose. It is only with faith that even the most difficult life finds its place.

So these readings are about faith. We tend to think of faith as belief. We think of the creeds – Nicene or Apostles’ – as belief. Belief is truly a matter of the head, of the mind. We look for understanding with our intellects. And to some extent, we tend to behave according to logic and reason. St. Paul speaks of faith being a matter of the heart. Faith is a matter of what we love, what we care about. A person who behaves from an attitude of love is more committed, is more engaged than a person who lives by reason alone. Jesus points this out when he teaches us about morality. A man who lusts after a women but does nothing to act out that lust still sins according to Jesus. Faith is in the heart and sin arises from within our hearts.

The difference between faith and reasoned morality is the difference between being compliant and being engaged. When we are engaged, when we are committed by reason of love, we do more, we grow more. The fruit of our lives is plump, luscious, juicy grapes. Those grapes are suitable for winemaking. Those grapes produce spirits that enliven and lift us up from the mundane, the routine, the boring, and the depressing. The metaphor with alcohol limps a good bit. And this is clearly not an encouragement to drunkenness. Just as Jesus in John’s Gospel responds to his mother’s request for help with wine, so also the ordinary water of life becomes a wonderful wine that encourages us to celebrate. And the water in the stone water jars at Canna was only used for washing. It was likely tepid, slightly contaminated and not fit for drinking. But even the most boring and difficult life takes on a difference – but only in the energy of the heart: only in love and the action springing from love. That love is based on faith in the Presence of God.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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BEING FRUITFUL AND PRODUCTIVE: 27th SUNDAY A

Paul O’Reilly, an Irish Jesuit priest and doctor, has written in Preacher Exchange 2 about his experience of working in a dysfunctional hospital overseas. It had a bad reputation and patients didn't want to go there. The staff was always angry, bickering, and rude to the patients. Many came late to work. Some didn't come at all. Some came drunk.

As a result, the patients didn’t get good service. Equipment seldom worked. When one tried to call the maintenance persons, no one answered. Or they couldn't come. Or they wouldn't. The pharmacy didn't have most of the medicine it was supposed to have. So when a doctor tried to get medicines for patients, the medicines were never available, or only available by handing over a bribe.

The laboratory had only a few tests that the technicians would do, even though they had the equipment for many more. The whole place was dirty and untidy. In fact, the total scene was one giant mess.

Then one day, the management called a meeting. It was a tense, horrible meeting. The chief executive explained that because of the very poor performance of the hospital, it was threatened with closure in six months’ time. If that happened, everyone would lose their jobs.

Very quickly there was a change in the attitude of the staff. They didn't like to work, but what they did like was getting paid at the end of each month. Suddenly, people started coming to work on time, staying their full hours, and working hard and cheerfully. And almost immediately the whole atmosphere in the hospital changed. People were co-operative. Pieces of equipment were nearly always working when needed. Clinics worked efficiently. The pharmacy was well stocked with medicines. The laboratory did all its tests. Staff became very polite to patients.

Six months later, the management called another meeting. The CEO reported that the hospital had come within three days of closing. But now it had a reprieve and could continue. So management and staff threw a big party, pooled food and drink, and danced the night away.

So, what happened next? Did it slip back to the way it was before it was threatened with closure? Or did it stay good? A most pleasant surprise, Paul reports, is that it remained an efficient hospital.

-At first the staff had made a big effort for one reason and one reason only. That was to save their jobs! But now that that their jobs were safe, they discovered that they actually liked the feeling of being good workers in a good hospital with a good reputation. They also realized now exactly what it had taken to make their hospital good. It was a price they were prepared to keep on paying. So, just in time, they had learned what their lives as health workers was all about, and how a hospital exists to serve people.

We Christians like to think of ourselves as the new tenants of God’s vineyard, God’s people today. We have taken over from the old tenants, - the scribes and Pharisees, the chief priests and the elders of the Jewish people. They failed to care properly for their people. They neglected, bullied and oppressed those in their care. They tortured and killed God’s messengers, the prophets. They even rejected and killed Jesus, God’s very own Son and God’s greatest messenger. In short, they kept letting God down, turning their backs on God, and failing to produce the fruit that God expected from his vineyard.

What about us and our responsibilities and commitments? How fruitful and productive are our lives? How well are we caring for our people, the ones who are our responsibility and concern? How much time and attention are we giving them? How much do we put ourselves out to serve them? How strong is our love for them? How generous and unselfish are we towards them? Can we truly say that we have made other people the centre of our lives, just as Jesus, known as ‘the man for others’ [Dietrich Bonhoeffer] made his people the centre of his life? What have we done so far for Jesus and for the people in our care? What do we intend doing from now on for him and for others? More immediately, in this coming week, how will we make our lives become more fruitful and productive? How?

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Year A: 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"I tell you that the Kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to the people who will produce its fruit."

A long time ago in a land far, far away, I once worked in a very bad hospital. It had a very bad reputation and patients didn’t want to go there. The staff were always bickering, angry, rude to the patients. Many people came to work late; some came drunk; some didn’t come at all. As a result, the patients just did not get a good service. Equipment never worked. When you tried to call somebody to repair it, they weren’t there; or they couldn’t come; or they just wouldn’t do the work. The pharmacy didn’t have most of the medicine it was supposed to have. So when you tried to get medicines for your patients, they were never available, or only available if the person’s family paid money to the staff in bribes. The laboratory only had a few tests that they would do, even though they had equipment and materials for many more. The whole place was dirty, untidy, poorly cared for. It was a mess!

Then one day, the management called a full staff meeting. It was a tense horrible meeting. They explained that because of the very poor performance of the hospital, it was in danger of being closed in about six months’ time. If that happened, everyone, from the top management to the lowest of the workers, would lose their jobs. Everyone went home depressed and miserable.

And overnight the hospital changed. First there was a change in the attitude of the staff - they didn’t like to work, but they did like getting paid at the end of the month. Very suddenly, people started coming to work on time, staying their full hours, working hard and cheerfully. And almost immediately the whole atmosphere in the hospital changed. People were co-operative. Pieces of equipment almost always seemed to be working when you needed them. Clinics worked efficiently. The pharmacy was well stocked with medicines. The laboratory did all its tests. And the staff were very, very polite to the patients. And – as everyone noticed – people who would have died in the old hospital started to survive.

Six months later, the management called another full staff meeting. And they said that the hospital had come within three days of closure. But now it had revived and could continue. We had a great party. They brought food and drink and there was celebration and dancing. And then we all went home.

So, what do you think happened next?

{Hands up all those people who think that it went back to being the way it was before it was threatened with closure.

Hands up all those people who think it stayed good.}

Well, like most people, I expected the hospital to go back to being the way it was. The staff had made a huge effort – for one reason and one reason alone – to save their own jobs. But now that they had saved them, most people would think they had no reason to carry on working so hard. But they did. And the reason they did was because they had discovered that they actually liked the feeling of being good workers in a good hospital with a good reputation. They now knew what good looked like – and felt like – and was like. They had known what it was like to be a bad hospital. Now they knew what it was like to be a good hospital. And they knew exactly what it had taken to make the hospital good. And it was a price they were prepared to go on paying.

They had learned just in time what their lives as hospital workers were about.

They had learned just in time that a hospital exists to give a service to people.

If it does not give that service then it ceases to have any reason for existing.

We normally like to think of ourselves as the new tenants of the vineyard who have taken over from the old tenants – the scribes and Pharisees - who failed to produce it fruit. That is true. But in taking over that inheritance we have also taken over that responsibility. And Harvest is our time for reflecting on how much we really are producing his fruit. What part have I in the Lord’s vineyard. What part do I play in building God’s kingdom in the world?

If I really believe that I have put Christ at the centre of my life, then this is the day I must ask myself;

What have I done in Christ?

What am I doing in Christ?

And what shall I do in Christ?

Because if we do not, the vineyard will be taken from us too and given to someone else.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who has given us our Harvest to reap.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

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