October 5, 2014 – Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Some of the great articulators of stewardship have used the image that God has given each of us a garden, a vineyard if you will, and how we care for and share the fruits of that garden is the measure of our stewardship, our willingness to recognize our giftedness and to use those gifts to glorify God and to help others. Both the first reading and the Gospel on this 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time deal with vineyards, and St. Paul connects the two together with sage advice.
The prophet Isaiah speaks of a vineyard, which was blessed and advantaged. It was cared for by a loving owner; it was planted on fruitful soil; the seeds used were the best (“the choicest vines”); it was well protected (the watch tower); and a wine press was built in preparation for its wonderful yield. But yet it only produced wild grapes. Understand that “wild grapes” as described were bitter and poisonous. How could this happen? What does it mean? The vineyard is, of course, a reference to the fact that God gives us everything. He prepares a situation where we can produce great fruit. However, the difference is that the fruit produced is dependent upon the human will and the human effort. We must be prepared to live as the Lord wishes, to be disciples, to be good stewards if we expect our gardens to produce good fruit.
St. Paul speaks of peace toward the beginning of the Second Reading and also in the last verse. Paul often made reference to peace both as a greeting and as a farewell. For Paul there were three perspectives of peace: 1. Peace from God: this sense of peace and comfort is a gift to us from God but we must both recognize it and seek it; 2. Peace with God: this has to do with our relationship to the Lord. Do we accept Him as our companion on the journey? Are we at peace with Him?; and finally, the peace of God: this is a peace beyond our comprehension, beyond our understanding. As Paul phrases it, “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” For us to be disciples, for us to truly produce fruits in our vineyard we must be at peace with who we are, and we absolutely have to embrace the peace of the Lord.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus shares another parable with us — the Parable of the Wicked Servants. The connection between this reading and the first reading from Isaiah is unmistakable. Through this parable Jesus makes it very clear to us that if we reject Him we can never produce the fruit the Lord expects from our garden, our vineyard. We all are familiar with Jesus’ trial during the Passion, the charges made against the Lord and His responses. At the core of all of this is the fact that it is-was not Jesus who is-was on trial. It is we. To reiterate the image of the garden and the vineyard, we need to grasp that what we do with that vineyard is our trial; it is how we are measured in our lives. To be fruitful, we must be committed and we must be working at it. God knows that stewardship is not easy. However, it is what is expected of us.