This week we continue with our series on morality. While our readings give us examples of what could be considered “bad behavior”, the focus is not so much on the behavior but the consequences of that behavior. Bad consequences for bad behavior is indeed a motivation for right behavior, but it is not, and should not, be the only motivator for taking the right path. God wants us to see the right path, but we sometimes miss the opportunities that are right in front of us...
The Word for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time:
Psalm 80:9, 12, 13-14, 16-16, 19-20
We open with a lament from early Isaiah. Remember that Isaiah is known as one of the greatest prophets, and is often quoted in the New Testament. His prophetic book, by three different authors, takes us from a time before the Assyrian uprising, through the Babylonian uprising, through the great Babylonian Exile, and all the way to the return to Jerusalem. In this week’s passage, Isaiah sings a song about a landowner and his vineyard, which we equate to the people of Israel, but then he poses the question back to us, as if we are the Lord and what should we do with these “wild grapes.” His song is a lament…of sadness and confusion over what to do. Our Psalm reflects this same story, looking for God’s mercy.
Our Gospel from Matthew takes a similar tact as we continue on from where we left off last week where Jesus is telling parables to the Chief Priests and Elders. Here Jesus gives us another parable, this time about another landowner and his tenant farmers. The story starts from a familiar place, keeping in mind that both Jesus’ audience and Matthew’s are quite familiar with the story we heard from Isaiah, only this time Jesus is equating the behavior of the tenant farmers to that of the Temple elders. Jesus warns them explicitly that if they can’t produce fruit in the Lord’s vineyard, it will be taken away and given to others that will. A stern warning that is just the beginning of the end for Jesus in Jerusalem.
Least these readings fill us too with dread and lament, our second reading should provide us with some hope. Here in our continued study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he starts the closing to his letter by telling us to “have no anxiety at all,” Reminding them that if they continue to follow what they have been taught, “Then the God of peace will be with you.”
If our readings for this week make it seem like God is frustrated with us and is ready to brush us aside, you would be correct. That lesson, however, must always be counterbalanced with God’s infinite mercy and forgiveness. As Paul reminds us, if we do what is right, God’s peace will be with us. With God there is hope.