by Fr. Tommy Lane
In the first reading God speaks of his love for his vineyard which is Israel (Isa 5:1-7), “Let me sing to my friend the song of his love for his vineyard...” Through Isaiah God described his chosen people, Israel, as a vineyard and declared how disappointed he is that instead of yielding grapes they produce sour grapes (Isa 5:4). Since through the prophet Isaiah God had already described his chosen people as a vineyard, we can easily understand why Jesus told a parable in the Gospel today where he describes the Church as a vineyard. (Matt 21:33-43) In the parable in the Gospel the landowner sent servants many times to collect the produce of the vineyard. But each time the servants were killed. The servants represent the prophets of the Old Testament who suffered for preaching the Word of God by being killed violently. Then the landowner sent his son, Jesus, who was also killed. The landowner took the vineyard from those tenants and gave it to other tenants. The vineyard in the parable is the Church, and so when the vineyard is taken from those tenants and given to others (Matt 21:41) it is a symbolic way of saying that the Church would consist not just of the chosen people, the Jews, but would include all peoples.
But what does the parable mean for us today? Obviously it can take on many meanings for us today, but as I thought about it certain events in recent years come to mind. If the vineyard is the Church and we are the tenants, then God wants us to give him produce from his vineyard, the Church. (Matt 21:34) God sent his servants, the prophets, in the Old Testament and through Isaiah complained that the vineyard was producing sour grapes instead of sweet grapes (Isa 5:4). God sent his Son Jesus, but God did not stop communicating with us then. From time to time God continues to send us reminders to encourage us to collect the produce from the vineyard, the Church. (Matt 21:34) What are some of these ways in which God sent servants to us, tenants of his vineyard, in recent years asking us to produce fruit from the vineyard? All the following examples are approved by the Church as trustworthy and reliable.
In Cochabumba, Bolivia, a statue shed tears of blood. When analyzed by cat scan in a hospital it was found that the surface of the statue was solid and the center filled with air, no liquid or mechanism of any kind.
In Syracuse in Sicily in 1963 a statue shed tears and among its many visitors was a Polish bishop, Karol Wojtyla, in Rome for the Second Vatican Council, who later became Pope John Paul II. As Pope he returned to the statue, now the Shrine of Our Lady of Tears, and said, “The tears of the Madonna belong to the order of signs. She is a mother crying out when she sees her children threatened by a spiritual or physical evil.”
All of these events show matter being produced out of nothing and cannot be explained by science. It shows that the greatest scientist of all is God. Those investigating weeping statues noticed that if they prayed when a statue was weeping tears of blood the tears turned to normal faint tears. They say if the world prays the tears will dry up completely.
The messages given by Our Lady to Sr. Agnes Sasagawa in her convent in 1973 in a village outside Akita, Japan, were approved by the local bishop and later by the Vatican as being reliable and worthy of belief. Among the messages which Sr. Agnes received was the following,
“if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one never seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests.”
“The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres...churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.”
Notice that the warning is conditional. We are not told the punishment will definitely come, it will come only “if men do not repent and better themselves.” Although this may sound very serious and even depressing we cannot dismiss this warning. In June 1988, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (who later became Pope Benedict XVI), gave a definitive judgment on the Akita events (statue in convent wept 101 times) and messages and found them reliable and worthy of belief.
The parable in the Gospel today (Matt 21:33-43) reminds us that in the Old Testament, God sent servants, his prophets, and then sent his Son, Jesus. God continues to send messages to us, to call us to produce fruit from the vineyard. If we accept these events found to be authentic by the Church, it seems that God is sending many servants to us in the last number of years asking us to produce fruit from the vineyard. In the Gospel of John Jesus says, “I chose you from the world to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)
What better way to conclude than once again remembering the words of Paul to the Philippians in the second reading,
Fill your minds with everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honor, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise. (Phil 4:8)
More homilies for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday Year A
Related Homilies: Bearing Fruit - Our love is not to be just words or mere talk
second reading: on filling your minds with what is good see Following Jesus begins in your Mind