Theme: THE VINEYARD OF THE LORD: ISRAEL (O.T.) AND THE CHURCH (N.T.)
- Isaiah 5:1-7
- Psalm 79 (80): 9. 12-16. 19-20. R. v. Is 5:7
- Matthew 21:33-43
Today is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A. The readings today tell us about the vineyard of the Lord, that is, Israel in the Old Testament, and the Church in the New Testament. Israel rejected the Lord and bore no fruit, but the Church accepted the Lord and bore fruit aplenty, bore fruit of the Spirit; bore fruit of good works!
The first reading from the prophet Isaiah tells us that the Lord had a vineyard. He dug it, removed the stones in it, and planted it with the best vines! He built a tower to guard it and a winepress to press the grapes into wine!
The Lord did all that He can do for His vineyard! The Lord expected it to yield sweet grapes, but instead it yielded sour grapes!
The Lord then will remove the wall that protects it and let it be trampled on and grazed on. The Lord will not prune it or dig it, but let the thorns grow over it. The Lord will not send down rain on it.
More importantly, the last verse of the first reading tells us that the vineyard of the Lord is the House of Israel and the men of Judah! The Lord expected fair judgment and justice, but behold injustices, violence and bloodshed; the Lord expected righteousness, honesty, and uprightness, but behold the cry of the poor in distress, pain, and suffering!
The responsorial psalm takes up the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm is a prayer for the restoration of the vineyard; a prayer for the restoration of Israel! Israel (Northern Kingdom) was destroyed and exiled in the 8th century BC by the Assyrians, and Judah (Southern Kingdom) was destroyed and exiled by the Babylonians in the 6th century BC! The psalm is applicable either to Israel or to Judah (NJB).
Thus the psalmist prays in stanza 1: ‘You have taken a vine out of Egypt and to plant it you drove out the nations. Its branches stretched out to the Mediterranean Sea and the Euphrates River’.
Stanza 2: ‘Then why have you broken its walls that protect it, and let it be plucked by all who pass by, and let it be ravaged by the boar of the forest, and let it be devoured by the beasts of the field’.
Stanza 3: ‘Lord God of hosts look down from heaven and see. Visit this vine of yours. The vine your right hand has planted’.
Stanza 4: ‘And we will never forsake you again. Give us life and we will call upon your name. Let your face shine on us and we shall be saved’.
The gospel tells us that the Lord answered the prayer of Israel and sent his Son Jesus Christ to save Israel, but again, Israel rejected the Lord and killed His Son Jesus Christ! Israel did not want a spiritual savior! Israel wanted a king like David with political, nationalistic and militaristic power to take revenge on the enemies and destroy the enemies! In fact if we read verses 17 and 18 of today’s psalm in the Bible, that is what Israel prayed for! But the Church left out these two verses of the psalm because the Church wanted a spiritual Savior, not a political, nationalistic and militaristic savior!
Again, the gospel today tells us that the chief priests, the elders of the people and the Jews in general rejected Jesus and killed him, but more importantly, the gospel today tells us that Jesus responded to the chief priests and the elders of the people by quoting psalm 118:22-23: ‘It is the stone rejected by the builders that has become the keystone. It is all the Lord’s doing. How wonderful it is to see’!
This quotation from psalm 118:22-23 is a prophesy of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit!
And most importantly, and peculiar to Matthew, the gospel today tells us that the kingdom of God will be taken away from the chief priests and the elders of the people and the Jews in general, and given to a people – Jews and Gentiles – who believe in Jesus Christ and bear fruit in the power of His Holy Spirit!
Today we are the people of God who believe in Jesus Christ and we are the Church who believes in Jesus Christ and we bear fruit in the power of His Holy Spirit!
Today in this Eucharist we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our Risen Lord will give us His Holy Spirit and we will bear fruit; fruit of the Spirit; fruit of good works! This is the Good News! Amen!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.