Monday, September 29, 2014

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 5, 2014

First Reading Commentary
The “friend” in this Reading is represented in the Latin Vulgate by the word “patruelis” which means “cousin”.  This is the prophet’s word for Christ.  The Hebrew text translates as “beloved”.  To understand the prophecy, all three translations can certainly support the understanding of the Messiah.  According to Jewish tradition, Isaiah is of the royal blood of the kings of Judah and therefore “cousin” identifies the Messiah as a blood relative, while “beloved” intimates a Messianic meaning.  And “friend” should turn our thoughts to the words of Jesus: “I have called you friends” (John 15:15)

The name “Isaiah” in Hebrew signifies “the salvation of the Lord”.  As a blood relative, Isaiah prophetically presents to us Christ lamenting over Jerusalem which is fulfilled in Luke 19:41. 

God is the Master of the vineyard.  And that vineyard is meticulously cared for and loved but what the vineyard produced was wild grapes which signify a people who did not return that care and love they had received.  And so, the cause of Christ’s lament prophesied here is basically a broken Heart.  And one can feel the incredible sadness that our Lord is experiencing in the question: “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I had not done?”   

Second Reading Commentary
Have you ever known someone, read about someone, or perhaps by a great grace you are that someone who possesses “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding”?  In our modern day one of the persons that might come to mind fitting that description is Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, even though we learned after her death, via her letters, of the dark night of the soul experience she was living through for many years.  Surely, though, she had possessed God’s peace and one need not look any further for evidence of this than by reviewing her daily grind and living conditions.  To live how she lived and do what she did without complaint can only be heaven sent. 

She was also not afraid to point out evil when she saw it.  On February of 1995 at the National Prayer Breakfast, Mother Teresa received a standing ovation by many that were present.  The President of the United States, however, reached for a glass of water while the First Lady, the Vice-President and his wife looked like they were in shock after hearing Mother’s speech which included the following: “I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child — a direct killing of the innocent child — murder by the mother herself.  And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?  How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion?  As always, we must persuade her with love, and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts.  Jesus gave even His life to love us.  So the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love — that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts.  By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems.  And by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world.  That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble; so abortion just leads to more abortion.  Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching the people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.” 

Certainly Saint Paul would agree that Mother Teresa’s speech was courageous; but she also was speaking words that were true, just and worthy of praise.  And she could only make such an eyebrow raising speech by being confident that her heart and mind were guarded by Jesus Christ.     

Gospel Commentary
Let’s begin by lining up who is represented by the characters in the parable that Jesus presents to us: The landowner is God our heavenly Father; the vineyard is the house of Israel but on a larger and wider scope the vineyard is the whole world in which Jesus died for; the tenants are the priests of the Mosaic covenant but again looking at the bigger picture, the tenants represent all of humanity; the servants represent the prophets who have been sent to Israel from time-to-time.  The son is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Now that the characters are in place it’s pretty easy to interpret the parable.  God has kept His loving gaze on us since the beginning of human creation.  He went well beyond the call of duty to secure our salvation.  A Messiah-Redeemer had been foretold by the prophets, many of whom suffered persecution and death.  Finally the Messiah, the son of the landowner is sent and He is also killed. 

Saint Nicholas of Lyra points out that the parable is not intended to suggest that God was somehow oblivious to what would occur; after all, it is His Son Who is telling the story.  On the contrary, Jesus shares this parable to not only foretell what will occur, but He also tells it to show how things could have been different if humanity would have abandoned their sinful ways. 

Malice and envy are some of the evils responsible for not knowing Jesus as the Messiah.  Saint Paul writes: “If they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8).  There will always be, however, a mysterious, missing or unknown element surrounding Christ’s salvific act.  Surely, if our Savior’s persecutors had known Who He was they would not have crucified Him.  On the other hand, from early on in salvation history God has required a sacrifice for sins.  And because Jesus is God Incarnate, His fulfillment of the Father’s will to be both Priest and Victim allowed Him to free us from the grip of death which choked humanity.  His Sacrifice also restored us to the safety and security of the Father’s Bosom.  Being freed from death and reconciled to God was not possible through previous forms of sacrifice.  And so, the mystery of man’s salvation is knotted up in the knowledge that Jesus would not have been crucified if His enemies really knew Who He was, along with the knowledge that salvation would not be possible without His Sacrifice.  We’ll have to wait until we get to heaven to fully understand this mystery.  The scriptural quote that Jesus uses: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes” is taken from the Book of Psalms ([117] 118:22-23).