A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy
BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 45)
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – October 2, 2005
“The Song of the Vineyard”
Is 5:1-7 // Phil 4:6-9 // Mt 21:33-43
I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS
This Sunday’s Gospel parable (Mt 21:33-43) is an echo of the prophet Isaiah’s “Song of the Vineyard” (Is 5:1-7) The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4 comment on this prophetic passage: “The vine is a curious plant. Its wood is not sightly and is good for nothing. It must be pruned so that only a few branches remain. The dry vine-shoots are burned. It is therefore not surprising that the biblical authors have taken the vine as a privileged image of the people whom God cultivates and from whom he expects beautiful fruit … The Lord had done everything for the vineyard … One could hope for the best: a ‘wine press’ had already been hewed out. Alas! Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? In his sorrow, the master appeals to the land’s inhabitants as to witnesses: Judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done? God is justified in holding the vineyard responsible, because he has not withheld sunshine and rain. It should have borne abundant fruits of justice and righteousness, but it has produced only iniquity. It deserves to be punished: the ‘fertile hillside’, abandoned to itself, without care, is going to lie fallow and produce only thorns and biers, to become an arid desert deprived of beneficial rain. What a warning! May the Lord not prolong such a devastation. May he come and save his people.”
Today’s Gospel parable presents the drama of man’s wickedness and God’s faithful and patient love. As one of the “parables of contention”, it was directed against the smugness, vanity and self-seeking of the religious leaders of Israel. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4 explicate: “In the framework of Jesus’ ministry, this parable-allegory has a decidedly polemical aim against the religious leaders of the people. Today, it is read without reference to this conflict-ridden context. In terms hardly disguised and very revealing, Jesus speaks of God’ conduct toward his people and the malfeasance of the leaders he had appointed or even anointed. Not only have many been unfaithful to their mission as stewards, but they have often persecuted or even killed those whom the Lord had sent them. The tragic story is told throughout the Bible. For those who still read the Scriptures, it remains a sobering subject for meditation. In the son ‘finally sent’, Christians see Jesus put to death outside the city because his message was troublesome and because he never ceased to exhort his hearers to produce fruits of penance. For God did not send only his servants the prophets, but his own Son.”
The tragic “Song of the Vineyard”, for all its ominous content and warning, contains a note of hope and challenge for the entire Church. Cardinal Jean Danielou gives a beautiful reflection on the vineyard song as it impacts the community of believers called to be fruitful in today’s world: “God’s patience has been strained to its farthest limit in this tragedy of Christ, the Lord of the vineyard’s son, rejected by the tenants, crucified, treated by his own people as a stranger and an outcast. But from the lowest depths arises a sudden hope: He will let out the vineyard to other vinedressers, who will pay him his due when the season comes. The tragedy of Good Friday, when Israel rejected him that was sent, becomes in God’s plan the means whereby the vine planted in Israel was to break out in a new and vigorous growth. In fact, it was to bring forth for the first time the fruits expected of it. Now through the passion and resurrection of Christ stems the true and faithful vine. I am the vine, you are the branches; if a man lives on in me, and I in him, then he will yield abundant fruit; separated from me, you can have no power to do anything. The whole burden of the story of the chosen people was that man is powerless to achieve for himself the result that God expects of him; the purpose of the story was to deepen man’s desire and longing for the true vine. Then the true vine appeared, in the person of Jesus Christ. The grace of God bears its plenitude of fruit in him; God can rest from its labors, now that human nature brings forth its incomparable harvest of holiness. The response which the people of Israel had never been able to give is now given in perfection by God himself in the manhood of Jesus Christ, of the seed of Israel. All of God’s pleasure is in Jesus Christ, his everlasting vine, the eternal source of satisfaction without end: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Indeed, in Jesus Christ, the Father’s beloved Son and the fruitful vine, we are able to avoid the disastrous destiny of the wicked, abusive tenants in the old vineyard. In the living Vine, the plaintive prophetic “Song of the Vineyard” is transformed from a tone of reproach to an exultant song of praise and thanksgiving by the Church for a fruitful harvest in the “new” vineyard of the Lord.
by Ranulfo T. Salise CS
Member: Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles (Scalabrinians)
The use of the parable in Jesus’ teaching was to make the people of his time resonate and identify themselves with the story. Jesus made use of daily experiences in the life of the people not just to tell a story, but to get across a message.
The Gospel today has a Kingdom motif. God is pictured as the landowner “who prepared the vineyard”. The whole parable pictures God’s goodness and patience, which are repaid by the wicked tenants with evil.
Hopefully at this point of our lives we are already convinced of God’s goodness and patience. One of the proofs of God’s kindness to us is his creation. He created us not of necessity, but he willed it with love and compassion. The reason for this, I suppose, is for us to be able to participate in his love. Ultimately he gave us freedom and dominion over the rest of his creation. The invitation is to realize that the greater the power due to the gift of freedom and dominion of the rest of creation, the greater would be our responsibility. Most of the time, we try to push God over, when in fact he cannot be pushed over. He acts decisively and his logic is not similar to human logic.
The Gospel episode is not just talking about responsibility. It is about a “breakthrough” – a whole new way of being, living and perceiving. Hopefully with this, each of us would be able “to respond”, which I think is the keyword to the Gospel. The tenants were not destroyed, but the “promise” was taken away from them and given to others who would profit from it. We are not called to have faith, but we are called to do something for our faith.
Matthew, in this Gospel, wants us to think of the imminent approach of the Kingdom. The killing of “the beloved Son” is a kind of an unrealistic quick fix to the problem. There are people in our world today who are allergic to the word “compassion”. Like the tenants in the Gospel, many of us are still incapable of letting go of our personal agenda. May this reflection lead us to realize what it truly means to be loved. As heirs to the Kingdom, let us strive in faith that we may not be sterile and barren instruments of love in this world because the owner of the vineyard expects us to produce good fruits.
II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART
A. What are the feelings and emotions that the “Song of the Vineyard” evokes in us?
B. Is the ancient drama of man’s wickedness and God’s fidelity also replicated in the vineyard of our lives? How do we resolve the conflict and challenge in this intense drama of God-man relationship?
C. What is our attitude and response to the presence of the new and living Vine, Jesus Christ? Do we resolve to be united with this Vine and bear abundant spiritual fruits? Do we endeavor to produce an incomparable harvest of holiness in the vineyard of God’s Kingdom?
III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD
(Cf. Commission Francophone Cistercienne, Tropaires des dimanches, 121)
Leader: O my Church, how shall I love you more?
I have planted you as a choice vine.
For you my Son’s blood has flowed, new sap in your branches.
Where are the fruits I was hoping for?
Assembly: Master of the vineyard, do not reject the work of your hands!
Leader: If you mark faults, who will stand?
But with you is forgiveness.
Our sins are stronger than we are,
but you, you blot them out.
Visit this vine and protect it;
your right hand has planted it.
Your wrath lasts but an instant;
your mercy endures for life.
Assembly: Master of the vineyard, do not reject the work of your hands!
IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD
The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.
“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.” (Mt 21:33-43)
V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION
A. ACTION PLAN: Pray in reparation for the wicked and sinful response that we give to God in exchange for his magnanimous gift of saving love in his Son Jesus Christ. Resolve to be faithful and benevolent servants in God’s vineyard. United with the living Vine, Jesus Christ, see what help we can render to victims of natural and man-made calamities in today’s world and our local community.
B. ACTION PLAN: That we may be fruitful tenants in God’s vineyard and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 45): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.
Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM
PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI
SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323