Sunday, 2 October 2011

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, Shaftesbury

Isa 5:1-7; Ps 79; Phil 4:6-9; Mt 21:33-43
“The vineyard of the Lord is the House of Israel”(Isa 5:7; Ps 79:9) –I want to say a word today about how that phrase can apply to me, to you, and to the Church as a whole.

I am the Lord’s “vineyard”. I’ve if been thinking about this concept this week with respect to various difficulties I’ve had. “Pride goeth before the fall”(Prov 16:18), and maybe I’ve been overly content with many things in my life and many things in this parish, and maybe the Lord thought it is time to bring me down a peg. Maybe the Lord is pruning and disciplining me, as Scripture tells us He did to His vineyard Israel.

We heard in our first reading in the Prophet Isaiah about how the Lord loved and cared for His vineyard Israel, His chosen people the Jews, lavished great things upon them, and yet that vineyard produced nothing but “sour grapes”. So, what was the Lord going to do next? He was going to bring devastation upon His vineyard as punishment.
Now, we know elsewhere from Scripture, and it's a crucially important truth to remember, we know that God never DIRECTLY wills any evil. He created the world perfect, He did not create evil or suffering, and even now He never directly wills them.
Yet, it is also a truth of Scripture that the evil He permits to happen is somehow part of His plan. And with respect to His “vineyard”, it is part of His CARE for His vineyard. As the Lord Jesus Himself said, the vine dresser PRUNES His vine (Jn 15:2) –not out of spite, but to make it yield fruit. And as St Paul says, “the Lord disciplines every son He receives”(Heb 12:6) –BECAUSE He loves the son.

Pruning is never something that we readily accept, just as no child readily accepts discipline. And yet the vine that is not lovingly and caringly pruned will not properly grow, and the child that is not disciplined will likewise grow into something much less than he could have been.
It is always a risky venture to attempt to read the mind of God, to attempt to know WHY God has allowed THIS particular thing to happen to me, now, in these circumstances -while we live in this world there are many things we simply do not know.
I might think that God has allowed certain failures, certain difficulties, certain things I have got wrong, in order to humble me -but there may be other reasons, and so while it is always good, anyway, to learn humility, the Lord probably has other things He's working through this too, and I should be wary of restricting my own interpretation of events.

Nonetheless, to repeat, it is an important truth of the Faith to know that the Lord DOES have a plan, that He does know what He is about, and that therefore we should ENTRUST ourselves to Him.
When we entrust ourselves to Him it means that we face difficulties in a different way. It means that we face them in the confidence of what Scripture says: "all things work to the good for those who love the Lord”(Rom 8:28).
It means that I don't allow the disappointments of this life to leave me in a spirit of dejection.
It means that I keep my eyes on the prize, Heaven, life with Him.
And that I do this knowing that I'm somehow “chosen” by God as His special "vineyard", as someone He is cultivating and working on, leading me from imperfection to opportunities to move beyond those imperfections, beyond my sins –to not not yield “sour grapes” but “deliver produce to him”(Mt 21:43).

So, as St Paul reassured us in our second reading, "There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving,... Then the God of peace will be with you"(Phil 4:6-9).

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