• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

"He will lease his vineyard to other tenants."

Entrance Antiphon: Est 4:17 – “Within Your will, O Lord, all things are established, and there is not that can resist Your will. For You have made all things, the heaven and the earth, and all that is held within the circle of heaven; You are the Lord of all.”

First Reading: Is 5:1-7 “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20 – “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.”

Second Reading: Phil 4:6-9 – “Do these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Alleluia: Jn 15:16 “Alleluia, alleluia. I have chosen you from the world, says the Lord, to go and bear fruit that will remain. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Mt 21:33-43 – “He will lease his vineyard to other tenants.”

Communion Antiphon: Lam 3:25 – “The Lord is good to those who hope in Him, to the soul that seeks Him.”

Have you ever seen the classic optical illusion drawing that causes some people to see a vase where others clearly see two women facing each other? Or consider the Magic Eye illustrations in which a 3D image pops out for some people whereas others see only an abstract pattern. That is how the Pharisees – and all of us present now – “hear” these parables today.

This weekend’s parables are similar. God is the householder in both. However, in the First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah the problem is with the vines and the fruit. In the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the produce is fine, but the delivery system is malfunctioning. The problem is with the tenants.

Each listener hears the story from her or his own perspective. What “pops out” depends on our viewpoint and our ability to look at ourselves honestly. Jesus was critiquing the Pharisees for their collusion with the Roman Empire and the temple leaders in Jerusalem for not properly caring for their people. And so, while they may have been written over 2,000 years ago, let's make this week’s Liturgy of the Word relevant by thinking about these parables in 2020 terms. What is Jesus saying to us (as individuals, as a parish community, as the Church, as Americans) about how our gardens are growing? These parables pull us toward an unknown future about which we should only know that Jesus is the cornerstone. It is futile to debate old structures because a new one is coming. “But we’ve always done it this way” especially if God ... Father, Son, and Spirit aren’t parts of the equation, won’t work anymore. Consider that in light of COVID-19 and recent Diocesan news.

Jesus relentlessly pursues us to avoid excluding ourselves from the kingdom of God. We all know very well that this is not Jesus’ first run-in with the Pharisees. He keeps confronting them by eating with the wrong people, by not answering their questions but escaping their traps. Then He identifies a list of woes against them. Is He trying to condemn them or exclude them? Is He simply picking a fight? Why won’t He just let it go? Well, I believe He keeps on coming because He is unwilling to give up on us. He knows we can still bear fruit. Maybe we respond by running, by avoiding, or by no longer coming to church, or maybe we respond by becoming defensive, and thinking He is certainly talking about other people – no way ... He’s not talking about us ... If that’s what you’re thinking ... guess again.

We are all given vineyards consisting of the people, events, and circumstances of our lives that God has entrusted to our care. We are all given gifts, talents, and abilities to tend them. The question is ... do we? Whether these experiences are painful, joyful, or ambiguous ... it is always possible to bring forth fruit from them. The fruits of our work in our own context will show us to be sharers in God’s kingdom – or not. Perhaps we exclude ourselves from that kingdom by hanging on to old guilt, by cynicism, maybe by believing that we are not good enough (perfectionism), or by living on autopilot rather than with thanksgiving and celebration. To the degree we are not producing, we are sidestepping our own lives. That is an issue about which Jesus will continue to challenge us. Prayer and service, as commended to us in our Second Reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, will help us to recognize ourselves in the mirror that Jesus holds up before us. The mirror that tells us we are created in the image and likeness of God.

God cares for us by confronting and pursuing us until we bear fruit. He won’t give up. Even if we exclude ourselves, He keeps holding up that mirror so we can see ourselves as He sees us. The hope and the joy we find in this weekend’s parables of the First Reading and the Gospel ... that’s the Good News.

As we come to the table of the Lord, our cornerstone, let us offer ourselves as the fruit of the vine and work of human hands. We do this as a grateful return for the grace God so freely offers us each and every time we receive Christ’s Body and Blood.

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