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27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

On Saturday, less than a full day after I had moved into the parish, we had

the annual grape harvest. There are a few vines that grow around the

presbytery, and the grapes are taken off to a wine collective to make,

obviously, wine, so we’ll get a few bottles back later. They didn’t get all

the grapes, as my parents had taken a few bunches with them back to the

West Midlands, but the collective got most of them. Unlike today’s

parable, I should get to sample vintage ’23, and also, unlike today’s

parable, last Saturday, no-one got hurt.


I’ve only been here a week and I’m getting to appreciate the town and

surrounding countryside, and also, more importantly, the people here in the

parish as well. And you begin to think, yes, God has created a wonderful

world. You may be aware that last Wednesday, which was 4 th October, the

feast of St Francis of Assisi, the pope released a document about the care

of creation, called Laudate Deum. It was an update on his earlier

encyclical letter Laudato si’. I won’t give you the entire content of them

both – please read them in your own time, but one of the themes which

also connects with today’s readings is care for creation – in the parable, the

tenants are put in charge of the vineyard, but afterwards want to treat it as

their property to jealously guard against anyone else, to exploit for their

own use. But it reflects a whole approach to life: is it “my life” where I

will do what I like, or is my life a gift from God, to be a gift to others and

to be offered in praise and worship of God?


In the Western world, there is very much emphasis on the individual:

individual rights, individual choice, being free from interference from

others etc. etc. If you go over to places such as communist China, I get the

impression we have the opposite extreme: focus on the collective, the

state, the communist party, whilst the individual is practically nothing. We

need more of a balance: so often it’s said that the Catholic faith is a matter

of both…and rather than either/or, so both the individual and wider society

are important. When you’re at home, you might have a fence to mark off

what is your property from what is your neighbour’s. As it’s sometimes

said, good fences make for good neighbours. You can change the TV in

the lounge without needing to apply for permission from the local council.

That’s all good and proper. But there’s also the fact that some of our

behaviour will have an impact, for good or for not so good, on those

around us. If we have a barbecue and invite the neighbours round, it can

promote a sense of friendship. The smell of the food sizzling away can

bring joy to our hearts, celebrating that summer isn’t totally gone just yet.

But if we have loud music going on until 4 am, then not everyone will be

happy. We might enjoy staying up late, but the man at number eight who

has to get up at 6 am to go to work, might not appreciate your desire to re-

live the sounds of the 1980s.


The parable today also has a much more serious and deeper point. The

message isn’t just about being nice. You’ve probably guessed that the son

who is sent and gets killed, represents Christ, who is to be crucified with

the assistance of the very audience He is speaking to. But the parable also

covers the whole of time up to that point. The landowner, of course,

represents God the Father. He planted the vineyard, which represents the

act of creating the whole universe. The various servants he sends

represent the prophets, such as Jeremiah, Isaiah, Zachariah and so on, who

were not always treated the best when they came with a difficult message

from God. And then, at the end of it, there is the return of the owner of the

vineyard, and what he might do to the evil tenants. They have a

responsibility before God. When Christ appears before Pontius Pilate, he

reminds him that all authority is given by God to be used properly, in

accord with God’s will, and that is why the Chief Priest, who handed Him

over, is the one with the greater guilt. That’s why it’s important you pray

for your parish priest, as well as the archbishop and the pope. The same

principles apply.


So hopefully, the yield of the grapes of ’23 will be a good one. But even

more importantly, we entrust ourselves to God as a parish, that we might

live in harmony with each other, with God and with the whole of creation.

And being the month of October, traditionally dedicated to Our Lady, we

must also remember to ask for her prayers as well, because her prayers

truly are powerful.

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