Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’  They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.  What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”

OPENING PRAYER

Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ,

for all the benefits which you have given us,

for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.

Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother,

may we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day.

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

who in the abundance of your kindness

surpass the merits and the desires of those

who entreat you,

pour out your mercy upon us

to pardon what conscience dreads

and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who live and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 5:1-7

Let me now sing of my friend,

my friend’s song concerning his vineyard.

My friend had a vineyard

on a fertile hillside;

he spaded it, cleared it of stones,

and planted the choicest vines;

within it he built a watchtower,

and hewed out a wine press.

Then he looked for the crop of grapes,

but what it yielded was wild grapes.

Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah,

judge between me and my vineyard:

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?

Now, I will let you know

what I mean to do with my vineyard:

take away its hedge, give it to grazing,

break through its wall, let it be trampled!

Yes, I will make it a ruin:

it shall not be pruned or hoed,

but overgrown with thorns and briers;

I will command the clouds

not to send rain upon it.

The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,

and the people of Judah are his cherished plant;

he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed!

for justice, but hark, the outcry!

APPLICATION

This image of a vineyard. carefully laid out and cared for by its owner, expressed very vividly the Chosen People’s relationships with God. It was a self-evident image in a wine- growing country, and is repeated in today’s gospel. The Chosen People of Isaiah’s day were well aware of all that God had done for them in the past. Ever since the call of Abraham (about 1800 B.C.), and especially since the Exodus (1300 B.C.), their history was handed down from generation to generation and was one continuous reminder of God’s benevolence towards them. But the return they made for this divine benevolence and love was a reluctant, cold service at its best, and a complete forgetfulness of him and his past favors at its worst.

However, this reading from Isaiah was not put before us today to have us say how deserving the Jews were of the fate their disloyalty brought on them, but rather that we, the new Chosen People of God, might apply this word of God to ourselves. If God did so much for his Chosen People of the Old Testament, how incomparably greater is the benevolence and love he has shown us Christians? The love God showed his Chosen People was but a shadow, A foretaste, of the love he has shown to his chosen ones of the New Testament. He sent his prophets to reveal himself and his message to the Jews; to us he sent his own divine Son, in human nature, to live and die among us and prove his love for us. He gave the land of Canaan to the Jews to be their homeland; through the Incarnation he has made us heirs of his own eternal kingdom of heaven. In spite of the overflowing love which God has shown us, how ungrateful we Christians can be and are. How often do we not only forget him, but positively offend him through our sinful attachment to the goods and pleasures of this world. How often must our heavenly Father have said of Christians whom he had adopted as sons: “what more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done for it?” When he expected loving gratitude and generosity from his privileged children, be received instead cold indifference and disloyalty from so many of them. Sunk in their own selfishness, they did not recognize their divine benefactor. Over-interested as they were in this world, they had no time for God’s interests or their own true interest. They sold their eternal inheritance for a mess of earthly pottage.

Such Christians are the vineyard which the heavenly Father says he will lay waste and destroy. There is a dire threat in it for the worst of us. But if we heed the warning, the merciful Father will remove his threat and will take us back once more as his beloved children.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

A vine from Egypt you transplanted;

you drove away the nations and planted it.

It put forth its foliage to the Sea,

its shoots as far as the River.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Why have you broken down its walls,

so that every passer-by plucks its fruit,

The boar from the forest lays it waste,

and the beasts of the field feed upon it?

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Once again, O LORD of hosts,

look down from heaven, and see;

take care of this vine,

and protect what your right hand has planted

the son of man whom you yourself made strong.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

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.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

READING II

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Phil 4:6-9

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.

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.

Keep on doing what you have learned and received

and heard and seen in me.

Then the God of peace will be with you.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 1803 “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”1

A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.

The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.2

CCC 2683 When we share in God’s saving love, we understand that every need can become the object of petition. Christ, who assumed all things in order to redeem all things, is glorified by what we ask the Father in his name.3 It is with this confidence that St. James and St. Paul exhort us to pray at all times.4

1 Phil 4:8.

2 St. Gregory of Nyssa, De beatitudinibus, 1: PG 44, 1200D.

Cf. Jn 14:13.

4 Cf. Jas 1:5-8; Eph 5:20; Phil 4:6-7; Col 3:16-17; 1 Thess 5:17-18.

APPLICATION

These words of encouragement and comfort which St. Paul wrote to his converts in Philippi, have encouragement and comfort too for us Christians of today. The world and its ways have changed since, but the road to heaven has not altered and human nature has not changed. Getting to heaven was then a strenuous upward climb, there were many worldly attractions which tempted men to linger on the way or turn off the main road. It is no different today. Keeping the Christian law is still something which is beyond the power of weak human nature, if left to itself. But it is not left to itself. By baptism we are made members of Christ’s mystical body and have the channels of divine grace open to us. All we have to do is to switch on the current of grace, and St. Paul tells us how to do this today.

He tells us to make our needs known to God through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. The primary purpose of prayer is adoration–man recognizes God as his creator and benefactor and pays him homage. The second end of prayer is thanksgiving–the creature shows gratitude to God for the many gifts he has so gratuitously received. It is only when a man has fulfilled these two obligations, that he can ask God for further spiritual and temporal favors. This is, as St. Paul tells us today, the true prayer that will bring us the peace of God; peace of mind in this life and eternal peace and happiness in the life to come, for it will keep us united closely with our brother, Christ, who is ever interceding for us in heaven.

The true Christian life is a life of continual prayer. Our Lord himself told his disciples that they should pray continually (Lk. 18: 1). But many will object: how can we do this, we have so many cares and distractions in life, earning our livelihood is a full-time occupation, where can we find time for prayer? The answer is, of course, that our daily chores are prayers if offered to God. Using the muscles and brawn of our bodies in manual labor, or the gifts of intellect and mind in office or professional work, is and should be a way of thanking God for giving us these gifts. And, done with the intention of thanking him, these daily occupations give honor and glory to God.

Prayer is not only the few moments of each day or each week which we spend on our knees; it is the dedication of our whole life to God, our recreation and rest as well as our labor. Our life was thus dedicated to God in our baptism, but we need to renew that dedication again and again during our lives. Today we are reminded to renew that dedication once more. It is of the essence of a Christian life, it is through the daily prayer of our work and recreation, interspersed and activated by verbal or oral prayer in the home or in church, that we can earn the peace of God which surpasses all human understanding. It is the guarantee of our happiness in this life.

GOSPEL

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Mt 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:

“Hear another parable.

There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,

put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.

Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.

When vintage time drew near,

he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.

But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,

another they killed, and a third they stoned.

Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,

but they treated them in the same way.

Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,

‘They will respect my son.’

But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,

‘This is the heir.

Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’

They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”

They answered him,

“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death

and lease his vineyard to other tenants

who will give him the produce at the proper times.”

Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:

The stone that the builders rejected

has become the cornerstone;

by the Lord has this been done,

and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you,

the kingdom of God will be taken away from you

and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/100817.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 755 “The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing.”1

CCC 756 “Often, too, the Church is called the building of God. The Lord compared himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the corner-stone. On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles and from it the Church receives solidity and unity. This edifice has many names to describe it: the house of God in which his family dwells; the household of God in the Spirit; the dwelling-place of God among men; and, especially, the holy temple. This temple, symbolized in places of worship built out of stone, is praised by the Fathers and, not without reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. As living stones we here on earth are built into it. It is this holy city that is seen by John as it comes down out of heaven from God when the world is made anew, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.”2

1 LG 6; cf. 1 Cor 39; Rom 11:13-26; Mt 21:32-43 and parallels; Isa 51-7; Jn 15:1-5.

2 LG 6; Cf. 1 Cor 3:9; Mt 21:42 and parallels; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet 2:7; Ps 118:22; 1 Cor 3:11; 1 Tim 3:15; Eph 2:19-22; Rev 21:3; 1 Pet 2:5; Rev 21:1-2.

APPLICATION

There are two leading thoughts that come to the mind of any true believer on hearing this parable: the infinite goodness, patience and mercy of God in his dealings with mankind, and the unsounded depths of wickedness and ingratitude to which men can sink. To his Chosen People of the Old Testament God had given a fertile and fully-equipped vineyard: his revelation, his protection, a homeland of their own in Canaan, and all this in order to prepare them for the future Messiah, who would bring them an eternal home in God’s own kingdom. All he asked in return was their cooperation.

But they had other plans; they wanted their kingdom on earth. Yet God was patient with them; again and again he pardoned their infidelities. He sent them prophet after prophet to recall them to their senses, but they maltreated these messengers of God and refused to heed their warnings.

Then “the fullness of time” came and he sent his divine Son on earth in human form. He took his human nature from one of their race, lived among them and preached his gospel of love and peace to them. He tried to soften their hard hearts, and made them the final offer of the Fathers mercy and pardon. But instead of accepting God’s offer of mercy the chief priests and elders only made it an occasion of an even greater sin. To their crimes of infidelity and injustice they added the murder of God’s Messiah and Son.

In God’s plan of love and mercy the tragedy of Calvary turned out to be the great “triumph of failure.” That death brought life to the world and opened the gates of God’s eternal kingdom for all nations and races. The Gentiles rallied around the standard of Christ. A new vineyard was set up in which all men could work for their Father in heaven and for their own eternal interests.

We Christians today are the successors of the first Gentile followers of Christ. We too have been called to work in God’s vineyard. Are we working honestly and devotedly? Are we producing the grapes and the wine that our divine Master expects of us? If our answer is “yes, I am living a true Christian life, I am working for God’s honor and glory and for my own eternal salvation,” then we can say a heartfelt “thank you” to our merciful Father, and ask him to keep us ever on this right path. But if our answer is “no,” then let us pay heed to today’s lesson. What happened to the chief priests and elders can and will happen to unfaithful Christians if they persevere in their infidelity and disobedience. But we can still put ourselves right with God. Let us do it today; tomorrow may be too late.

 

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Respect for Creator and Creation

There is a story that goes as follows: Francis told the brother responsible for the garden never to plant the whole area with vegetables but to leave part of the garden for flowers, so that at every season of the year it may produce our sisters, the flowers, out of love for her who is called “the flower of the field and the lily of the valley” (Song 2:1). In the same way he wanted there always to be a particularly beautiful flower bed, so that, at all times, people would be moved by the sight of flowers to praise God, “for every creature calls to us: God has made me for thy sake, O man” (Mirror of Perfection 11:118). We cannot take this story and simply leave the religious element to one side as a relic of a bygone age, while accepting its refusal of mean utility and its appreciation of the wealth of species. This would in no way correspond to what Francis did and intended… When man himself is out of joint and can no longer affirm himself, nature cannot flourish. On the contrary: man must first be in harmony with himself; only then can he enter into harmony with creation and it with him. And this is only possible if he is in harmony with the Creator who designed both nature and us. Respect for man and respect for nature go together, but ultimately both can only flourish and find their true measure if, in man and nature, we respect the Creator and his creation. The two only harmonize in relationship with the Creator. We shall assuredly never find the lost equilibrium if we refuse to press forward and discover this relationship. Let Francis of Assisi, then, make us reflect; let him set us on the right path.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Canticle of Sirach

39: 13-16, 32-33

Listen, my faithful children: open up your petals,

like roses planted near running waters;

send up the sweet odor of incense,

break forth in blossoms like the lily.

Send up the sweet odor of your hymn of praise;

bless the Lord for all he has done!

Proclaim the greatness of his name,

loudly sing his praises,

with music on the harp and all stringed instruments;

sing out with joy as you proclaim:

All the works of the Lord are very good.

When the time is right, he gives whatever is needed.

so now, sing with all your heart and voice,

and bless the name of the Lord!

Glory be to the Father and to the Son,

and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning,

is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen. Alleluia!

 

 

 

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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