Saturday, October 4, 2014

Homily (2) Twenty-Seven Sunday Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (2) Twenty-Seven Sunday Year A: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isaiah 5:1-7; Ps 80:9,12-16,19-20; Phil 4:6-9 and Matt 21:33-43

The Vineyard of the Lord

In the Gospel reading of today (Matt 21:33-43), Jesus, obviously is in Jerusalem. He is on his way to the cross. He teaches everyone on the way, especially the elites, the scribes and the Pharisees. His subject is that each of us have been planted as a vineyard by God our maker, to bear good and lasting fruits of justice, peace, love, respect for life and the human dignity. What is so exciting about today’s readings for me, is also that Jesus carries out his teaching, allegorically, with reference to Jerusalem, the tenants, religious authorities, the prophets, and about himself, using the imagery or the parable of the vineyard. Each of us, the church as a whole and as individual members, as well as civil authorities and citizens of all nations can relate to this parable.

From the parabolic mouth of Jesus, a man planted a vineyard and leased it to tenants. When harvest time he sent successive contingents of his servants to collect the produce. On each occasion they were maltreated, insulted, rejected, beaten and stoned. The landowner finally sent his beloved son for the same mission, at least with the hope that they would respect his son. He was not respected, either. The tenants failed the test for respect. They stoned the landowner’s son, threw him outside the vineyard to die.  Of course, the scribes and the Pharisees naturally would expect the landowner to judge, punish or kill off these wicked tenants and replace them with fruits bearing tenants.

Hearing from the melody of the Psalmist (Ps 80), and particularly from the Song of the Vineyard, in Isaiah 5:1-7, I want to believe that Jesus’ audience were familiar with this sort of parables. Isaiah in the mid-8th century used this parable. He likens ungrateful and unresponsive Israel to a carefully tended but inexplicable unfruitful vineyard of wild grapes. Many of Israel prophets, before Jesus( Hos 10:1; Jer 2:21; 5:10) have also expressed disappointment on the failure of Israel, Judah, Jerusalem, the tenants, the authorities, civil and religious to bear the fruits expected of them or at least to imitate the true vine, namely Jesus ( John 15:1-10).

Every blessed day nations and institutions of the earth, their leaders and subjects are faced with choices and decisions to make. The Catholic Church, other churches and religious groups are faced with responsibilities, so also her leaders and members. Today these choices may touch issues of war and peace, ISIS and terrorism, sexuality, marriage, family value, health, Ebola, HIV, poverty and wealth, climate change, deforestation and preservation of forest, social justice, life and the dignity of the human person and their fundamental human right. What would Jesus have done in these circumstances? Do we strive in our various capacities to bear fruits expected us?

While in Philippi Saint Paul must have been wrestling with the same issue, the need to realize that each of us, including all preachers are chosen by God, planted by God to bear good fruits.

Like Prophet Isaiah and Jesus, Paul seems to have put all of us on the spot( the poor, rich, preachers, pastors, politicians, civil, ecclesiastical authorities, priests and religious, clergies, social and factory workers, students, teachers, professors, moms, dads, grandpa, grandma, friends, partners and companions, etc) to draw conclusions for ourselves, on what are expected of us in the Lord's vineyards and as the Lord's vineyards.  Paul exhorts us;
“...Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever, is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you,” (Phil 4:6-9).