Monday, October 17, 2005

Fr. Paul's homily for Sun Oct 2

Homily for Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 2, 2005

Jesus was famous for using analogies... or parables as we also call them. He tried to make His message as understandable to the people of His time as He could. This often meant using examples that touched on the people’s lives in some way. Because His society was predominantly an agricultural one, in which the vast majority of people were engaged in growing fruits and vegetables, sheep or other animals for their subsistence, we have a lot of stories about farming. Today is no exception. Both Isaiah the prophet and Jesus use the same analogy in our scripture reading today. That of a vineyard. The ancient peoples were fond of their wine, so nearly every land owner would have had at least a few vines growing out back of their house. They would have understood easily the implications of this parable.

When we think of vineyards today we often have that image of row upon row of vines growing in the Napa valley, France, Italy, or other parts of the world known for their wine. A close inspection of these vineyards and the operations that go into growing grapes helps us to appreciate more fully this analogy that Christ and Isaiah use today. Growing grapes is an intense process. To produce the best grapes this process is dependent upon several factors: just the right mix of sun and rain, just the right temperature, and the perfect soil to nourish the root system. When all of these factors come together then the best grapes are created to produce the best wine.

Grape vines are very finicky things as well. They are made up of stringy branches that creep along low to the ground. They are inherently weak, and depend upon some structure to cling to for support. They take a great deal of tending and pruning to grow in the right direction and produce good fruit. After all this labor and effort, the vines, we can say, serve only one purpose: to produce the best possible fruit.

In our readings this weekend, a very clear parallel is made between this vine and you and I gathered here today. In the midst of a complex world, we are reminded today that our lives have one sole purpose: to produce fruit for the Lord. By this is our true purpose in this life fulfilled. A great deal of effort must go into the vine for us to produce this fruit. What’s more, we must have something solid to cling to so that we will be supported and have the opportunity to grow.

So what then is this fruit? Is it some physical thing that we are supposed to make? This is the tricky part. For the fruit that you and I are called to make in our lives is not a visible one, at least not physically. The fruit of our lives must be the love of God shown forth in the loving service of our neighbor. For this fruit to grow, we must cling to the teachings of the Lord, which provide us strength and support.

Just as the vine must be pruned and trained to grow upon the structure for support, we too must train ourselves to grow along the supporting structure of our faith. The scriptures this weekend remind us that there have been times, indeed the majority of human history, when we have strayed from this realization. Times when the vine has been tempted to live for itself, rather than to fulfill its true purpose. In these times, God has sent messengers to call the vine back to its original purpose. These messengers, the prophets, were each beaten and killed. Our scriptures this weekend tell us that God even sent His own Son into this vineyard, and the Son too was treated in the same way.

The message of the gospel this weekend primarily challenges us then to be open to the word of God. The truth is no one likes to be told when they are wrong. No one enjoys someone pointing out the errors of their ways. This is especially true when the error has to do with such fundamental areas of our life. While our temptation may be to conform the challenging words of the scriptures and the Church’s teachings to accommodate our own desires, our challenge is to always conform ourselves to the word of God. It is only when we are able to do this that we are able to grow to our full potential and our lives produce the best fruit.
Fr. Paul Beach    

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