Sunday, 4 October 2020 : Twenty-Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we are called to reflect carefully on the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, as we heard of the Lord speaking to us through the passages relating to us the narrative of a vineyard and how this is a metaphor used to describe our lives in this world and what the Lord expects from us as His followers.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah in which the Lord spoke of His people and comparing them to His vineyard, and spoke of how He had cared very well for the vineyard, tended to it and did everything He could, referring to how He had cared for the Israelites and then the people of Judah up to the time of Isaiah. And yet, despite all these, the people continued to disobey God’s laws and commandments, and chose to embrace wicked ways and worship the pagan gods and idols.

This is why the Lord was displeased at His people who had disregarded His teachings and commandments, and did what were wicked and evil in His sight. That was why God proclaimed through Isaiah what would come to happen to the people who have disobeyed and rebelled against Him, as it would soon come to happen that the kingdom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem were to be destroyed by the Babylonians, its people brought into exile and its lands laid dormant for many decades just as the Lord said it would be.

The Lord then reminds us yet again through the Gospel today in which He used the parable of the vineyard and the wicked tenants in order to bring forth His points across to those who were listening to Him, as many of them would have been familiar with the terms He used as many were involved in agriculture and vineyards were common in the region at the time.

Through this parable of the vineyard, again the Lord showed Himself as the owner of the vineyard, which represents the world just as in our first reading it represents the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And all of us are in fact the tenants in the vineyard, working in the vineyard of the Lord. God has called on us to heed His words that we may understand our faults and come to embrace His ways.

It is notable that while in our first reading, the sins of the people of Israel and Judah were represented by the bad and rotten grapes, in the Gospel today we heard the parallel in the wicked tenants that occupied the vineyard and refused to give what they owed the master and owner of the vineyard. All of these happened despite the kindness and patience showed by the owner, just as God had been patient in taking care of His vineyard and patiently hoped for the good grapes, only to gain bad and rotten grapes in the end.

Through the parable, the Lord in fact called on His people to turn away from their sinful ways, their wickedness and rebellion, their refusal to obey the Law and will of God. In the parable, the vineyard owner sent many servants to remind them all to pay their dues to the owner. But those wicked tenants were greedy and haughty, refusing to obey the owner and thinking of their leased property as their own, and therefore, they mistreated those servants sent to them, and in time, even tortured and killed them.

And we heard how the owner then sent his own son to persuade the wicked tenants, hoping that they would at least respect him and listen to him, and turn to the right path. On the contrary, those wicked tenants became even more greedy and haughty, plotting to seize the control over the vineyard by eliminating the son of the owner, the rightful heir of the vineyard so that they could claim their rented lands as their own. Thus, their pride and greed had led them even further down the path of sin.

This parable is in fact a prefigurement and premonition of what was to come. Those servants sent by the owner to remind the wicked tenants were the prophets and messengers, all those whom God had sent to remind us all mankind to turn away from our sins and to be reconciled with Him. Unfortunately, for a long time, our predecessors had refused to listen to God, remained in sin and persecuted those prophets and messengers who had been sent to them to remind them and call them back towards God.

And when the Lord sent His Messiah, the long awaited Saviour, into this world, just as the son of the owner was sent into the vineyard, the people to whom He had been sent to refused to accept Him either, and they persecuted the Messiah and His followers, that is Christ and His believers, the disciples and the Christian faithful. Those who were in power like many among the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council rejected the Lord as they were more concerned in maintaining and retaining their prestigious places in the community.

They would choose to reject God and His truth, and instead holding on to their flawed ways and beliefs, in their rigid and unbending, and even hypocritical application and exercise of their authority and Law of God. As a result, many among the followers of Christ suffered in the early days of the Church because of these oppositions against the Lord and His good works. And many more were to suffer from the persecution from the other pagan peoples, from the Greeks and the Romans, many of whom saw the Christian faith as a threat to their own faith and society.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the words of the Scripture and reflect on its meaning and truth, we are all reminded that all of us as Christians have been entrusted by God with this world as our vineyard, the place of our labour. God has planted the seeds of faith among us, in this world, and by the efforts of our holy and dedicated predecessors, the Apostles and their successors, they had nurtured and allowed those seeds to germinate and grow, and as a result, we see how the Church had persevered and even grown in the past two millennia.

Not even the most brutal and toughest of persecutions, and not even divisions and disagreements, disunity and conflicts, threats from both internal and external sources were able to destroy the Church. The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church has been established by God to be His kingdom in this world, His vineyard in which all of us His faithful and beloved ones are part of and cared for by Him. But we must then now also realise that all these did not happen just overnight, but due to the commitment and hardships endured by our many predecessors, many of whom suffered and were even martyred for their faith.

And remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that through our baptism, just as we have become part of the Church, we have also been entrusted with the same mission that the Lord had entrusted to His Apostles, which at the Great Commission, He said to all of them, ‘Go forth to all the peoples of all the nations, and make them My disciples. Baptise them all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ And through these words, the Lord had sent us all to be His labourers, the workers in His vineyard, the Church of God in this world.

There are still many out there who are still ignorant of God’s truth and love, and there are many more still even within the Church who have forgotten their faith and became lukewarm in how they lived as Christians, treating their faith as merely a formality. And therefore, through these readings we heard today, as we heard the Lord lamenting the state of His people’s lukewarmness and rejection towards Him, let us all respond to His call, in becoming faithful witnesses of our Christian faith, living as true Christian disciples in every moments of our lives.

Are we willing to pick up our crosses faithfully and be exemplary in how we live our faith, in each and every moments of our lives? This is what we have been called to do, and as we enter into the month of October, we enter into the Month of Mission, which began just a few days ago with the celebration of the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower of Carmel. St. Therese of Lisieux is famous for her ‘Little Way’, in which she said that no amount of effort, no matter how small, is insignificant in the effort for the conversion of souls and the glorification of God.

If we think that we are incapable, not knowledgeable enough in our faith, or that we have not been exemplary in our faith life all these while, then this is where we need to heed the words of St. Therese of Lisieux, in striving to do our best to serve God and to glorify His Name. And we do not need to worry about anything, for truly, as St. Paul said in our second reading today, in his Epistle to the Philippians, that we do not need to be anxious about anything, and instead, we ought to focus our attention to the Lord Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

And we are all called to be exemplary in faith and life, to fill ourselves with everything that is good and just, shunning sinfulness and the wickedness of this world. Let us all not fall into the temptation of pride and greed, the allures of worldly pleasures and satisfactions, as those wicked tenants had represented to us. Instead, let us all strive to be ever more humble, to be ever more dedicated in faith, each and every days of our lives, to glorify God by our every little deeds and actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all commit ourselves anew from now on, with renewed zeal and spirit, to walk faithfully in God’s path, and to nurture the faith in our communities, in our families and among our circle of friends and in all the encounters we have in life. Let us all be beacons of God’s light, truth and hope in our darkened world today. Especially these days, when there are just so much suffering, pain and injustice in our world, in the midst of the still-raging pandemic which exposed both the best and worst of humanity, we should bear witness to God’s love and show His love to one another in these difficult and trying moments.

Let us reach out to our fellow brethren, especially those who are suffering and less fortunate than us. May the Lord lead our way and help us that we may always be ready to commit our lives at every moments, for the greater glory of God and His people. Let us all be the good labourers in God’s vineyard, that out of this world, more and more great harvest of faith and the salvation of souls may come forth, and that the light and truth of God may return to this darkened world. May God bless us always, in our every good efforts and endeavours, in serving His greater glory. Amen.