Reflection for Sunday, October 2, 2005: 27th week in Ordinary Time.
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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
PRE-PRAYERING | Today's liturgical readings invite us to pray for the spirit of cherishing and protecting what God has given us. We will hear a poem and an allegory or kind of parable about vineyards. We are invited to pray with all that constitutes our sections of God's garden.|We can so easily take things "for granted" instead or "as granted" by God. If all is a gift and we are those to whom creation has been given, then as good tenants, we are challenged to care for creation. There is a deeper meaning to these readings and to our preparing to hear them and celebrate the Eucharist.|We have been given Jesus. We have been given our faith and the grace to live that faith in following Jesus in "fruitful" lives. Faith, as with any gift, can become an easy-come, easy-go thing. We have been entrusted with a treasure which forms us to be different from the attitudes and actions sponsored by the worldly tenants of the modern greedy garden of now!|We pray to be prepared to receive God's nourishing Word and Sacrament by living what we hear and receive as well as cherishing the earthen vessels which this treasure in-fleshes.| REFLECTION | Isaiah sings a poetic prophesy to the inhabitants of Israel in our First Reading. Using an agricultural image, he speaks to Israel about its being a choice vine planted by God who is the friend of the prophet. The song hits a sour note when we hear that though the fields were fertile and the vine was healthy, no crops came forth at harvest time.|The prophet's Friend declares that the fields will be left to rot and ruin with no rain clouds to nourish them. The fertile land of Israel is the vineyard and the people planted there are God's vine. God looks for justice and virtue, but all there is to be found is bloodshed and vengeance.|Notice the audience for whom this parable is intended. Notice the exact details of the parable. A vine or vineyard is planted and prepared precisely for producing good fruit and wine. The whole enterprise is entrusted to a group of production engineers by the owner. No fruit results, but just the opposite. Remember the audience who is listening.|After sending messengers, (prophets) to encourage production, the owner sends his son. The engineers plan to kill him and so possess the whole vineyard for themselves. Jesus turns back to his intended audience and traps them in their answer.|The parable is Matthew's central theme. The hedge protecting the vineyard was the history of the sacred covenants and the customs and laws associated with that sacred relationship and history. The hedge has perversely protected the "wretched men" who have not rendered the vineyard fruitful. The fruitfulness, the produce, is the important reality for which the vineyard had been generously planted.|Jesus is the stone, once rejected, Who becomes the cornerstone of the new "hedge." The kingdom intended to be fruitful, is taken from His listeners' hands and given to the people who will take care to produce the works of mercy, justice, and protection of the gifts of the vineyard.|This reading can seem to be a winner-loser story. It is so much more than that. Those who are to follow the teachings of Jesus are a continuation of the relationship with God begun with creation and extended through the covenants. Those people are not the "winners," but the challenged. We who set our lives upon that Cornerstone have much to do to take care of the vineyard. All that is created; all who are created, these are blessings meant to increase the presence of the "Owner."|Rather than a "winner" I feel I am a "weeder." I am a cultivator, a waterer, a nourisher, and a servant of all who are in the vineyard. I have to lean on the "hedge" for encouragement and comfort. The "hedge" is all the history of God's revealational love. My life is the product of other vine dressers and servants who cared for this vine and became part of God's saving history.|Yes, there are always weeds we cannot remove. There are those who have other ideas about Who the Owner is and what is fruitfulness. The vineyard seems divided into ours and theirs. When I lean on the "hedge" and listen, the vineyard belongs to the Owner, as do I and every other little things and persons.|The great consolation is that Jesus is not off on a journey and waiting to hear that the harvest has taken place. Jesus is laboring with us and through us all to bring about the Kingdom. The kingdom is not ours and we belong to it and are responsible for keeping it His. His work is helping each of us bring forth the produce which reveals Jesus. So each of us is constantly being weeded and at the same time, sent to feed, weed, seed this world with His gestures, personality, and farming techniques.|"The Lord is good to those who hope in him, to those who are searching for his love." Lamentations 3, 25
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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