Sunday, 5 October 2014

Whatsoever is true and the Family of God - A Homily for Trinity 16 A

TRINITY 16 (Pr. 27 A Or Time)

“whatsoever is true, whatsoever is honest, whatsoever is just, whatsoever is pure, whatsoever is lovely, whatsoever is of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things.”
                                                                                                                       Phil. 4

In the Gospel, Jesus uses the Old Testament symbol of the vineyard to teach us about Israel, the Church, the human family and the kingdom of God.

The parable of the Vineyard of God in the Gospel acc. to St. Matthew depicts the owner as God and the house of Israel as the vineyard. A cherished vine, Israel was plucked from Egypt and transplanted into a fertile land specially prepared by God, hedged about by the city walls of Jerusalem and focused upon the sacred Temple dedicated to worship. Equally, the vineyard is the world, which God has given to us.

In the parable the vineyard produced no good grapes for wine, the wine that is a symbol for the joy of life God wills for all people.  So the vineyard was overrun by invaders, as Isaiah foresaw in the First Reading.

Jesus picks up the story where Isaiah leaves off, even using Isaiah’s words to describe the vineyard’s wine press, hedge, and watchtower. Israel’s leaders, the tenants in the parable, had learned nothing from Isaiah or from Israel’s history. Instead of producing good fruits, they expressed a kind of entitlement and ownership without reference to the fact that all we have is a gift from God and is meant for the good of the whole human family. We must treat all with justice - “whatsoever is just”.

The tenants killed the owner’s servants, the prophets, sent to remind us of our dependence upon the grace and love of God. In a dark foreshadowing of the attack upon the human family and of his own crucifixion outside Jerusalem, Jesus says the tenants’ final outrage is to seize the owner’s son, and to kill him outside the vineyard walls – an offense to God, to the human family and to the Kingdom of God. Because of this, the vineyard, which Jesus calls the kingdom of God, is taken away and given to new tenants.

Each person and family is a branch in the Lord’s vineyard, part of a family grafted onto the true vine of Christ (John 15:1-8), called to bear the fruits of righteousness in Christ (Philippians 1:11). We are meant to be the “first fruits” of a new creation (James 1:18), realizing that all we have is a gift from God and is meant to be shared with others for the good of the whole human family.

We need to take care that we don’t let ourselves or our families be overgrown with the thorns and briers of anxiety, entitlement, fear or violence. Today’s Epistle teaches us that together we need to fill our hearts and minds with godly thoughts which will lead to virtuous deeds, rejoicing always that the Lord is near in . . . .“whatsoever is true, whatsoever is honest, whatsoever is just, whatsoever is pure, whatsoever is lovely, whatsoever is of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things.”             

                                   Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:9, 12-16, 19-20
Philippians 4:6-9
Matthew 21:33-43

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