Brett Fawcett

WORD MADE FLESH

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 5, 2014
Isaiah 5.1-7 | Psalm 80 | Philippians 4.6-9 | Matthew 21.33-43
September 22, 2014

When we donate money to a charitable cause, choose to spend time with a relative or friend who we find tiresome or exhausting, or volunteer for church functions, we may be inclined to be a little proud of ourselves. We could have used these resources for ourselves, but instead, we've benevolently chosen to share them with others.

This Sunday's Scriptures should end that kind of thinking once and for all.

In the First Reading, God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, laments that he will have to punish his people, symbolically depicted as an unfruitful vineyard, for not bringing forth the fruits of "justice."

The classical definition of justice, as laid down by Plato, is that everyone receives what is due to them. We see a concrete example of this lack of justice in the Gospel.

I will make my vineyard a waste - Isaiah 5.6

'I will make my vineyard a waste'

Isaiah 5.6

Jesus uses the same image as Isaiah to describe a landowner who rents his vineyard out to tenants who refuse to allow him to collect the fruit of this property when he sends for it, even killing his own son when he comes to confront them.

These tenants weren't just being selfish by not letting someone else have their fruit; they were withholding from the landowner what was rightfully his, thus engaging in outright theft.

As punishment, the landowner will take the vineyard away from them and rent it out to others, just as God will take his kingdom from the Temple officials who rejected Jesus and give it to the Church (symbolism that is confirmed by today's Psalm and Gospel Acclamation).

I, as a Christian, have been made a worker in God's vineyard on the expectation that I will yield the fruits of justice. Everything I think I own is really on loan from God, and, unlike the unrighteous tenants, I am expected to welcome the Son and give him what is his.

But when am I given the opportunity to do this? How does Jesus come to me, asking for food? He has told us: He is in the poorest of the poor, those who are poor financially, poor in mental health, poor in social skills, poor in kindness, poor in patience, poor in wisdom, poor in personal decision-making abilities.

Every frightening homeless person, every short-tempered customer and every irritating co-worker I have is the Son of God coming to his vineyard.

What does this mean for me? Church fathers, saints, popes and bishops have all affirmed that, after our basic needs are met, everything we own properly belongs to the poor and not to ourselves. This doesn't just mean money; it means our time, our attention and our love.

When we are present to others around us, when we inconvenience ourselves in order to be Christ's light in the world, we aren't doing the world, or God, a favour. We're returning to the owner of the vineyard the fruits of justice which are properly his; we are giving people made in the Image of God what they are rightfully due.