Sunday, October 5, 2008  The World is the vineyard of God.

Homily, Sunday, October 5, 2008

Father Felix

The Lord's word to us this morning is once again based on the theme of the vineyard. Three Sundays in a row have carried this theme as the focus of Our Lord's parables.

In the first reading it speaks of a friend who had a vineyard on a choicest site.

                        “He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; built a watchtower, hewed out a wine press in the center of it.”

In the Gospel it says, “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.”

It says in the first reading that the vinedresser lamented because in spite of his care for the vineyard, it did not yield good but wild grapes.

He says, “What more could I have done, that I did not already do for my vineyard to produce desired results?”

Quote: “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?

            Why when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?”

            “I looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed!

            For justice, but hark, the outcry!”

He concludes, that He will: “Take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its walls, let be trampled! “Make it a ruin: It shall not be pruned or hoed, but overgrown with thorns and briers; clouds will not send rain upon it.”

The vineyard should be understood as a symbol for the house of Israel. It indicates how much God loves and cares for the people of Israel. God is the vinedresser (a landowner in the Gospel), and the people of Israel are the vineyard he tends and cares a great deal about. Numerous times God sent numerous Prophets to Israel to bring justice and righteousness out of them; instead God reaped bitter grapes of bloodshed and outcry. Many of the prophets were killed.

Eventually, He dealt his last card. He sent his one and only Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, hoping that they would respect him being the Son representative. The son is almost the same as the father present in person. There is no better representative. The results were the same. They treated him the exact same way.

Now, the lament of the vinedresser in the first reading is God's own lament, because he did all He could. He dealt the last card. This situation is beyond redemption beyond this point. What more could I have done for this vineyard.

APPLICATION:

In the back-door way, the parable of the vineyard now symbolizes all of us, both individually and collectively, as a society and as church. The Lord plays the role of a good farmer, taking care of us as a farmer takes care of his vineyard or field, and expecting good yield/produce/harvest out of his efforts.

He has endowed us with all the necessary skills and abilities to yield good crop of grapes, rather than bitter or wild grapes. Ultimately, God sent his only begotten son, Our Lord Jesus Christ to the rest of the world. God has dealt the last card. He sent us missionaries as modern prophets. He sent us the teaching body of the church (the magisterium) to help us yield good grapes in matters of faith and morals. The question is, could we say that His lamentation has stopped? Is the world now yielding different grapes from those it yielded before Our Lord came? Could say that there is no more bloodshed? No more outcries?

OUR BODIES: The biological Meaning

Our own bodies are the vineyards of the Lord. He terraced our bodies and organ-ized the organs so that they are productive and fruitful. In the manner we tend our bodies is indicative of we respect our bodies as the Lord's vineyards or, as St. Paul calls them, “the temples of the Holy Spirit”. None of us designed out bodies to place the head, the stomach, eyes, nose, ears and the feet right where it should be. The Lord has terraced us that way. None of us can claim that responsibility except the Lord. So, he is the vinedresser and we are just tenants, even though we sometimes act like we own the vineyards of our bodies as did the tenants in today's Gospel.

The manner we give our bodies enough rest and sleep, good nutrition; how we clean them, clothe them good, not overworking them, not ingesting poisonous substances or junk foods, is indicative of our loyal tenantmanship. How we use our bodies to yield savory grapes instead of bitter grapes of harming others is indicative of our good stewardship.

When we drug our bodies with mood-changing substances, poisoning them slowly, that's the kind of carelessness we shall render account of when the Son of Man finally comes.

ABORTION AND CONTRACEPTION:

Today is the Respect for Life Sunday. Some of the ways we use our bodies to do harm to them and the young grapes conceived in them are by chemical means. We ingest chemical pills that are aborti-facient (make abortion happen). The deceptive word used for those pills is “contraceptives” while in fact, conception has already occurred. All those pills do is to cause the inflammation of the uteral wall so that it may not implant the child. They would rather be called “contra-implantives”. It even feels gross that I am talking about this inside the church. The reason for that sense of grossness is not in my talking about it, but rather lies in the fact that it is a grotesque thing to do, to begin with. There is a reason why it turns our bowels over and makes us ill at ease. Deep down in our conscience, it tells us it should not be done.

“He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; built a watchtower, hewed out a wine press in the center of it.”

God placed the uterus as a vinedresser “hewed out a wine press in the center of the vineyard.” Our heads are the watchtowers from which we, the tenants, can observe and see the dangers that come towards the vineyard of the Lord. Our brain, our reason, thinking, helps us sense wrong, false, evil things that can endanger our bodies. Our eyes and ears are the watchtowers to help us detect the “boar of the forest that comes to, as today's psalm says, “lay-waste the vineyard”. Our stomachs are the other wine press the vinedresser has placed in the center of our bodies. We are to put only healthy foods not poisons in them.

The fact that abortion and contraception still goes on today is because, as today's psalmist says, the hedge has been taken away, the walls of the vineyard have been broken down. The body is trampled down. The thorns and the briers that have overgrown the vineyard are the diseases that have got into the body system, some of which are threatening to wipe out the human race from the face of the vineyard, the world. Because the body is no longer protected, the hedge, which is the moral standards, have been brought low, the human body is plucked by the passers-bye.

“Why have you broken down its walls, so that every passer-by plucks its fruit?”

For a parent to kill his/her baby, and for a physician to assist in abortion is no different from the tenants killing the rightful Son of the Landowner. The child is the rightful child of the mother. The child could not come from any other place except from that mother's womb. So the child rightfully belongs there where s/he is.

SOCIAL JUSTICE:  THE WORLD/INDIVIDUAL COUNTRIES AS GOD'S VINEYARDS

Let's rouse our social justice sensibilities by remembering that in many parts of the world, major corporations that do good works, however, do also render sour, bitter, and wild grapes instead of the good grapes of justice. In Nigeria, Oil companies, while making good profit, yet fail and refuse to render the inhabitants of the land the crop of just economic benefit.

The same is true for the Republic of South Africa. Diamond and Gold companies, deny the sweet crop of grapes to the hard working South Africans, by denying them the just wages.

Mandela, Archbishop Tutu and others tried in vain to change this trend of iniquities. Some were killed, others maimed, others tortured and imprisoned.

The reason underlying the outsourcing of jobs is fundamentally the refusal to pay just wages and taking advantage of other human beings who are vulnerable to corruption and injustice. Prophet Amos spoke very clearly against tweaking and twisting prices and measuring scales in the commercial market. China does the same towards other countries as well.

As a result there is poverty and no sustainable economy for these lands to which outsourcing goes or the so-called investments are made. It besets the local people into poverty. With poverty then comes strife, bloodshed. Dufar is a prime example.

These are the bitter and wild grapes that God finds when the vintage time comes and it's time to collect the vintage.

Those lands (countries) are like the vineyards with walls broken down.

Those companies are like the passers-bye plucking their fruit.

They are like the boar from the forest laying those vineyards (countries) to waste.

They are the beasts of the field feeding on the vineyard.  (Psalm 80)

PROBLEM:

1. God laments for these fruits of injustice, and corruption that the earth, his vineyard, yields. He wonders what is it that he has not done for this vineyard to produce only the desirable fruits of love, charity, abundance, peace.

2. We also wonder why there is no peace in this world! The world/schools/nations/families cannot have peace and will continue to be ravaged by the boar of the forest, for as long as the world is not rendered to God and his kingdom does not come and his will is not done on Earth as it is in Heaven. As long as mankind runs the world as though it were their own vineyard; failing to recognize God and his demands from us (moral standards), and know our role as stewards in his vineyard.

St. Paul in today’s Second Reading offers a solution: “Brothers and sisters, have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 4:6).

OUR SCHOOLS AS GOD'S VINEYARD

When God still runs our schools, there will be fruits of peace. When God is blocked out of the vineyard of our schools, sour grapes are likely to yield. God comes to the vineyard of our schools looking for right judgment.

                        “He looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed. For justice, but hark, the outcry?”

Without God, there is bound to be undue anxiety, depression, and other emotional deregulation.

OUR HOUSEHOLDS ARE GOD'S VINEYARDS

OUR CHURCH IS THE LORD'S VINEYARD

He expects vintage at the vintage time. Don't block him out of these vineyards.

Let the Psalmist's prayer will be our prayer:

            “Once again, O Lord of hosts,

            Look down from heave, and see;

            Take care of this vine,

            and protect what your right hand has planted

            and the son of man whom you yourself made strong.”

            “Then we will no more withdraw from you;

            give us new life, and we will call upon your name.

            O Lord, God of hosts, restore us;

            if your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved.”

SUMMARY:

1. Our Life is given to us in trust. On the day of reckoning (vintage time), God expects appropriate results.

2. Today's word calls for responsibility and accountability in our dealings with God, which include our dealings with our fellow human beings, at the job, household, school, etc.

3. Every privilege we enjoy comes with a price tag of responsibility. We are ultimately responsible and accountable to God for the way we use or abuse our God-given privileges, bodies, brains, eyes, ears, stomachs, and reproductive system.

4. God has terraced us and furnished us with all that we need to make a judicious use of all these privileges, yet we retain the ability to abuse them.

5. Life itself is a privilege that can be taken away from any of us at any moment.

6. Most importantly, God has already played His last card in sending Jesus Christ, OUR LORD, His only Son. We are living in a critical time period, the last minute, the last chance. Our response at this moment is critical for our salvation. We don't have all the time in the world.

7. God is lamenting. Let me not be his reason for lament, wondering what more he could have done to make us bear good grapes. Let me be part of his consolation and solution. “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

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