The Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
October 5, 2014
Yesterday we celebrated the feast of St Francis, probably the most beloved saint of the Church’s two thousand year history. We all know his prayer “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace”. Can you think of anything we need more in life at this time, than peace? The violence we have heard about this past year, especially in the middle east, makes us wonder what is happening. It’s as if the world has reached its tipping point: a time of continual violence, threatening everyone. Brutal, sadistic violence is now the new norm. We ask ourselves: what kind of society will our children inherit? And how will they manage in such a world?
At least one thing is for certain: today’s bleak news reports, whether about ISIS or Ukraine, help us understand the tragedy of unexplainable violence in our gospel parable. In both our first reading and in our gospel, we hear about a vineyard in which violence has crept in. It’s the same lesson as the garden of eden: What was once a pastoral scene of abundant life has turned into something that God abhors. We can easily understand God’s lament in Isaiah: For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry! In the parable of the vineyard as told by Jesus, he is actually foreshadowing the very violence that he himself will undergo. Jesus’ life and mission are symbolized in the story of the vineyard. Like the old Testament version, this is a story of unrequited love. God’s love is the love that has not been returned. Men have thrown his offer of love back in his face. They have misused their authority, and killed the only one who could actually bring peace. While the parable is an indictment against the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, it also critiques those who live by violence, and who simultaneously reject the person and the teachings of Jesus. The readings of today, and the direction of 21st century society remind us that the salvation that our loving God has prepared for us, is continually rejected. But does this mean that we have live in a state of continual fear and anxiety? According to St Paul’s words of today, No. Against the backdrop of many uncertainties in life, the gospel is still a path to abiding peace. St Paul wasn’t a man who lived like a flower child of the 60’s, spouting peace and love to all he met. If we had been on the brunt of his hard hitting words to the Corinthians, or to the Galatians, we would know that he was hardly a man of superficial pleasantries. From personal experience he understood the pain of deep controversies. So the words of Paul are from a realist, with his feet planted on the ground. God wants us to hear them, and realize that nothing can take away the peace of his kingdom Do not worry about anything, but in everything let your requests be made known to God by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. In a similar vein, at the end of the reading he says: Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. The peace that St Paul talks about is only possible because it has been won for us, by the Lord himself. Jesus accepted to die, and to bear the guilt of our sins. When we feel overwhelmed by the state of the world, by the violence that is increasingly evident, we can say that he has faced it all. He is the stone rejected by the builders that has become the cornerstone. Today we pray for peace in our world, in our families, in our own hearts, and we pray that we will connect with a deeper faith in the one who gave us his peace.
The psalmist expresses our plea:
Turn again, O God of hosts; Look down from heaven and see; Have regard for this vine, The stock that your right hand planted.