Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014
Twenty-seventh Sunday in
Psalm 80:9, 12-16, 19-20
On my back patio, I have several pots of herbs that I use for cooking. While I'm pretty good at keeping them alive in spring and fall, the intense heat waves of summer and cold snaps of winter tend to wipe them out, forcing me to plant them anew each spring.
One of my favorite herbs is cilantro, so last spring, I prepared a shallow clay pot with good soil, a generous sprinkling of seed and plant food, and I waited . . . and waited . . . for the outcome.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered a miniscule cilantro seedling inundated by last year's moss roses. Although I had to start over and reseed, I now have two crops: a blooming moss rose and a thriving cilantro plant.
This week's first reading and the Gospel begin in similar fashion: a vintner with the dream of a thriving, productive vineyard and a caretaker of the vine who seemingly does everything right but for whom things go terribly wrong.
In the first case, "the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel," who repeatedly disappoint the one who planted them. The expected yield of justice is supplanted by a bitter crop of violence and bloodshed.
In the second case, the outcome is even worse. Not only do the tenants withhold the expected vintage, but they also assault the owner's servants and murder his son for their own gain.
One gets the sense that the prophet Isaiah's warning is still falling on deaf ears, and Jesus' version of the parable unmistakably carries the pointed message that "enough is enough." Time for an alternate plan of mercy -- the restoration of the Lord's vineyard.
We who are grafted onto the vineyard of Israel are the Lord's servants, and we have been given that same vineyard to tend with the expectation of fruitfulness.We have been "chosen from the world," a privilege that also carries a high probability of discouragement. Yet St. Paul tells us to "have no anxiety at all" but to persevere by Christ's example.
God's plan for his people Israel may be deferred but not thwarted entirely. He mercifully restores life to his vineyard, where both the ancient stock and the new growth will thrive and bear fruit together.
This column is offered in cooperation with The North Texas Catholic of Fort Worth, Texas.