3rd / 4th October 2020

posted 7 Oct 2020, 03:28 by Parish Office   [ updated 7 Oct 2020, 03:28 ]

Homily for the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

I was saying last week how, with some of the parables that Jesus taught, they sound a bit strange – sometimes they might make people think: why did the main character do that? Surely so-and-so would have been a better option? If we look briefly at the parable of the landowner, we find a similar thing: the owner of the vineyard sends some of his tenants to collect the produce, but the tenants give them a beating, and kill some of the them as well. So the landowner sends a larger number of servants, and the same happens again. So after all of this has happened, he sends his son. Surely he could predict what was going to happen? His son is killed. Why was the landowner so foolish? Simply because the whole point of the parable is that it is a description of the history of Israel: God sent the prophets, and the people took little notice of some of them, abused some and killed others. And what’s going to happen next? Now that God has sent His Son, His Son is going to be killed by the Jewish authorities. They are the bad tenants that have been put in charge of the vineyard, Israel. They should be giving glory and honour to God; instead they are misusing the gifts of God for their own selfish enjoyment, and everyone else is suffering as a result. Or as we read in Isaiah:

“Yes, the vineyard of the Lord of hosts

is the House of Israel,

and the men of Judah

that chosen plant.

He expected justice, but found bloodshed,

integrity, but only a cry of distress” (5:7).

So when we read later on, in St John’s Gospel, about the healing of the man born blind, it’s rather refreshing. Here is a man who was born blind, and Our Lord gives him his sight. But not just his physical sight. He also gains spiritual sight, to recognise who Jesus is. Meanwhile, the Pharisees are obstinate in their rejection of Christ, and so they reject the testimony of the man born blind.

So is the moral of the story then that the Jewish authorities went wrong and corrupt, so Jesus established the Church in their place, and that’s the end of the story? That’s part of it, but there’s more. Two things then: where do the Jews stand today, and where do we stand? Are the Jews condemned forever? Is anything bad that happens to them just simply their fault? That’s not what St Paul said, in his Letter to the Romans.

In Romans 11, St Paul comes up with his own mini-parable. He begins first, though, by saying, “I ask, then, has God rejected his people? [By this he means the Jews.] By no means! … God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew… For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Vs 1a. 2a. 29). What is going on, he says, is that the Israelites rejecting Christ has created the opportunity for the Gentiles to get to know Him. Now the parable of the olive tree: God has created a cultivated olive tree, which is the House of Israel. Some of the branches have been broken off, and in their place, wild olive shoots, the Gentiles (Gentiles are the non-Jewish nations of the world) – the Gentiles have been grafted on in their place. But: here is the warning. Branches that have been grafted on can also be broken off, and the natural branches can be more easily grafted back on. If we are talking about the true religion, and following God as He wants us to follow Him, then that is open to anyone, and also, anyone is able to fall away. But God’s plan is for all of us to be reunited together. As St Paul continues:

“For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree” (V. 24).

We are all called to be one with the Lord, regardless of our background. The important thing is not our background, but our response to God. Are we to be like the Pharisees, and the bad tenants of the vineyard, or like the man born blind? Both the Pharisees and the blind man were Jewish – that is not the issue. The issue is faithfully following the Lord, which enables us to recognise who Jesus is.