Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A

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Nicholas F. Martorano, O.S.A.
Our Lady of Good Counsel Friary
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Readings
Is 5:1-7
Ps 80:9,12,13-14,15-16,19-20
Phil 4:6-9
Mt 21:33-43

Do you remember Rodney Dangerfield? He was the comedian who would frequently interject in his performance, “I get no respect”! Respect – it seems to be a concept from the past. Many in authority today, from parents to teachers, would tell you that respect has almost vanished from many relationships and situations and therefore not much good can be accomplished.

But how about a young man by the name of Augustine who wrote in his Confessions that he was searching for truth in his life? This caused him to be a restless individual and made him a disrespectful son to his mother, Monica, and to her Catholic faith. He found himself making choices that were opposed to her, her Church and the truth he sought. But, after his conversion and Baptism, he found a new respect for the truth which he discovered was always the God who was within him. His restless heart found peace. And so, much good was accomplished by him from that time on.

In the Gospel today we learn more about the importance of respect in relationships. In the parable, a landowner wanted to obtain from his tenants what was lawfully his to take. So, he sent his servants to collect the produce, but the tenants beat them and even killed some of them. Then the landowner thought that he would send his son to collect what was owed him. He said, They will respect my son. There is that word again – respect. Did they? Listen again to what the tenants whispered among themselves: This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance. Then the tenants even killed the son of the landowner. They had no respect for the authority of the landowner. So the angry, disappointed landowner took away the vineyard from them, had the tenants put to death and leased his vineyard to others who would respect him and produce good fruit.

This parable obviously identifies God as the landowner, the tenants are the Chosen People of Israel, and the son is Jesus, the Son of God. The prophet Isaiah in the 1st reading states: The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for judgement, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!

We know that God sent prophets to His people when they were disrespecting Him and the Covenant He made with them. They were choosing other paths to follow. The people ignored, beat and killed the prophets. Then God sent His Son, Jesus, as their Messiah. Did they respect Him? No! They hung Him on a Cross like a common criminal.

Jesus concludes the parable with this: I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit. And so it happened throughout the history of Israel as His people kept breaking the Covenant. I wonder if through all of this, we would have heard God repeating, “I get no respect!” The prophet, again speaking for God, says, What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done? If we could have heard God speaking to them, He would say: “How many times have I tried and how many times have I been rejected and disrespected by my Chosen People? I set you free from slavery in Egypt; I fed you with manna in the desert; I conquered your enemies and took you out of exile; I gave you the prophets and I even gave you my Son. Now I must call on a new people, even from the Gentiles, and establish my Church.”

And so the challenge of respecting God and His love for us continues in His Church today. Through the Church, God has given us the sacraments; He gave us His Mother, Mary; He continues to send saints to lead us; He has provided us with guidance and moral teachings; we have the Scriptures as a light in the darkness; the Eucharist nourishes and strengthens us on our journey; and so much more.

The question is, have we respected these gifts God has given to us for our salvation? Are we producing good fruit by our good works in following the Gospel? Again we need to recall the words of the prophet who spoke for God to the Israelites and now also to us, the New Israel: Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? “Do I need to take away my gifts from you also?” For sadly so many Christians today are disrespecting or forgetting God’s love and gifts to them. We can see the results of this all around us in the world.

God wants us, the faithful tenants, the Baptized, to bring back the choicest vines. Then our witness to the Gospel and our faithfulness can shout out anew: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes!

Let St. Paul encourage you with his message from that 2nd reading today to the Philippians: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

We must work together to build up the Kingdom of God on earth and make it a fruitful vineyard, producing the finest crops for the landowner – God – so He will say, “They are my faithful and respectful children.” Again, from St. Paul, Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you. We’ll find peace in God as the newly respectful St. Augustine did also!

The Eucharist nourishes us and strengthens us to repeat what we sang in the Responsorial Psalm: Then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name. O LORD God of hosts, restore us; if your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved.

That is what our respect of God and His Church can accomplish – our salvation! God Bless You!