Saturday, October 1, 2011

27th Sunday In Ordinary Time: Yielding The Harvest Of Holiness

Perhaps any well-meaning parent or educator could relate with what the readings in today’s Sunday liturgy bring us. We are brought to consider one again—as in last week, with the parable of the two sons—the figure of the vineyard. The prophet Isaiah in the First Reading presents the oracle of the master of a certain vineyard, of how the owner did everything within his expertise and the agricultural technology of those times to make it come up with good grapes during harvest time. Everything pointed to the expectation that a good harvest was in store: it was situated on a fertile hillside; the choicest vines were planted, and the owner did other things in anticipation of the harvest, on that never materialized. Considering all the effort exerted by the owner of the vineyard, one could only imagine the sense of frustration that he felt, very much like good parents and educators who have invested a lot in their children’s education with high hopes and expectations, only to be thwarted. One could very well understand the cry of the owner and even sympathize with him: What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?

The oracle is actually an allegory, and this is partly explained in the Responsorial Psalm, which identifies the vineyard as the house of Israel. More than once would Israel would likened to a vineyard in the Scriptures; in this case Israel’s history of infidelity and stubbornness is mad clear. One would suppose that being God’s very own people and His own house the Israelites would have strived to live up to the holiness of the One whom they have called their Lord and God. But the history of Israel is one of almost constant infidelity to the covenant made between her and God, a God who has provided everything that she may be faithful to him.

This story of God’s faithfulness and His providence, and man’s infidelity is once again made clear in the Gospel by our Lord in his parable of the evil tenants, who despite repeated attempts chose not to listen to the messengers their master sent them, and even chose to kill the master’s son, sent to them in one last attempt to obtain the produce that was rightfully his. This is a passage that is rich in meaning, since it also allows us to consider that Jesus was actually referring to his identity and his mission.

One thing that we could get from our meditation in the Word of the Lord this Sunday is the fact that the Lord has given us all of the graces that we need in order to be closer to him and to be faithful to him. Above all things, what God wants from us is that we be closer to him, that we be saved, that we be holy, which is what St. Paul meant when he mentioned that the will of God was our sanctification (cfr. Col.). God may have chose not to give us that something that we thought we needed badly, but then He would never refuse anything that would greatly aid in our sanctification. We are called to be holy, and though it may seem to be a very high goal, especially considering our own defects and weaknesses, the truth is that it’s not impossible. It isn’t considering for one part that God has placed all of the means that we need in order to attain this goal in our life. In the first place he has given us of Himself, in the very person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord has granted us the gift of His Church, the pillar of truth and the sacrament of salvation, sanctified by the presence of the Holy Spirit. We have the sacraments, especially that of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. We have the experience and the example of the saints, who continue to intercede for us in heaven. The example of the lives that they have lived is evidence and an impulse for us, showing us that holiness is never outside of our reach, that all of us are called to respond to the universal call to holiness, each in his or her particular situation in life. This is something central to the teaching of Opus Dei, which celebrates the anniversary of its foundation today.

“Finally my dear brethren, whatever is true, honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things…” The letter of Paul to the Philippians reminds us that we do not lack these things, these means in our life. We have them, and they are a great help in our growth in holiness of life. Let us therefore ask ourselves about the quality of our response to the Christian call that we have received in baptism: are we really striving to grow in holiness, given the grace of God and our own cooperation and goodwill? Do we take advantage of the means that the Lord has placed at our disposal, so that we may be holy as our Father in Heaven?

May we be fertile vineyards that will yield that harvest of holiness that the Master will demand from us when our time comes. Amen.

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