Sunday Sipping: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:9, 12-16, 19-20
Second Reading: Philippians 4:6-9
Gospel: Matthew 21:33-43

This coming Sunday’s First Reading and Gospel are markedly stern warnings! In the First Reading, the vineyard’s production of wild grapes prompts the owner to lay waste to it, to “make it a ruin”. In the Gospel, Jesus states that the Kingdom of God will be taken from the chief priests and elders and given to a people that will produce its fruit. But make no mistake brothers and sisters, the warnings are not merely for the house of Israel or Israel’s chief priests and elders. They are for us!

There are multiple interpretations of the symbolism behind these readings but the moral message is clear. Take care of what God has entrusted to you, to the point of returning it to Him with increase, and do so today! You never know when “vintage time” will be. Thus, you must be vigilant and unceasing in your cultivation of the vineyard, i.e. the Kingdom of God. When we actively cultivate the Kingdom of God, we cooperate with God’s grace and so too are our lives cultivated. And what is the result of all this care? Good fruit. “The vineyard brings forth the ripe fruit of love, joy, peace, and the like,” as Origen, an early Church writer, would put it. Another interpretation from Origen sees the resulting good fruit symbolizing “a man’s blameless life.”

Now that’s what happens when everything goes right. How about if things take a turn for the worse as we see in these Sunday’s readings? Indeed, the field in the First Reading produces wild grapes, a sign that a field has been neglected. Moreover in the Gospel, Jesus describes not merely neglect but increasingly evil actions taken by those to whom the vineyard was originally given. Both lead to the same thing. Our work is laid to ruin and the Kingdom of God is taken from us. Let’s hope this will never happen for us!

How do we then avoid this sorry fate? How do we cultivate the Kingdom of God entrusted to us? Saint Paul provides some insight and a place to start in the Second Reading: “Finally, 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.” Indeed, we must meditate upon what is good, true, and beautiful. For whatever we set our minds on, we soon become impelled to seek out and grasp. And once we start to move towards such goals, aided by God’s grace, we are well on our way to a bountiful harvest.