We really miss the point if we think that our major task in reading scripture is to examine the historical period in which it was written so as to have a better understanding of how life was lived in those days.
If the word of God lives for us and is a force in our lives it must be spoken now. It must be heard now. Paul’s charge to the Philippians is that they live what they have learned and accepted. Living the word, more than the study of it, yields “God’s own peace beyond all understanding”
In Isaiah’s story on the vineyard and in Jesus’ story there is a common question asked: “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done?” They dug the land, cleared it of stones, built a tower and a wine press and planted nothing but choice vines. In return for all of God’s effort Isaiah’s vineyard yielded wild grapes. Instead of justice there was bloodshed, in place of righteousness there was a cry. In Jesus’ story the return for his investment was nothing but violence and death brought on by greed and covetousness.
What does today’s scripture ask of each one of us? In Baptism each of us received the seed of glory, each one of us became the Lord’s vineyard. We are nourished and strengthen by the teachings and example of Jesus, nourished and strengthened by the sacraments and the bread of life we received at every Mass. The hard labor that went into us vineyards of God was the generous labour of love on God’s part when God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but to embrace our humanness, becoming as we all are. The Son’s labour of love was dying a painful, lonely death on the cross. What more could God have done for us, what more could Christ have done for us?
When God looks for the fruit of all God’s labor what will He discover? The sour grapes of selfishness, self indulgence, injustice, a lack of concern for those who have less, an indifference to the needs of homeless, the unemployed, the working poor? Will God find the sour, bitter grapes of sexism, prejudice and bigotry?
When God looks for the harvest of our lives will God find life giving grapes that help us hold to whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just and pure, and whatever is pleasing and commendable? The answers depend on us.
Moving beyond ourselves as individuals what does today’s scripture say about how we as the human family are living in God’s vineyard of creation? We know that all things are of God’s making, all times and seasons obey God’s love. We know God gave us the care of all creation. We know we are kin to all God’s creation. Today’s scripture asks us to evaluate the health of our relationships within that kinship. Are we producing the sour grapes of polluting the air and water, the sour grapes of diminishing the life systems of the planet, the sour grapes of exploiting but not sharing the limited resources of Earth? Are our lifestyles guided by the sour grapes of unbridled consumerism? Or are we trying to produce life giving grapes that recognize the woundedness of creation, the life giving grapes of commitment to heal the earth and live lightly upon it. Are we trying to produce life giving grapes that help us appreciate the beauty and the wonder of God’s good creation? Are we trying to produce life giving grapes that help us to live simply that others may simply life?
As we continue to celebrate this Mass we pray for ourselves and for each other that we always try to do whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is commendable so that each of us, with the help of God’s grace, will produce a life giving harvest.