October 4th, 2020

Still of the young St. Francis of Assisi from the film Brother Sun, Sister MoonStill of the young St. Francis of Assisi from the film Brother Sun, Sister Moon

Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

As we remember, today we heard the third parable, the plot of which takes place in a vineyard. Jesus used this beautiful image and example of the vineyard very often in his teaching – and he used to do so for a very simple reason – to help his disciples and other listeners to fully understand his teaching about the Kingdom of God.

I think that the hard work in the vineyard and the all year-round care for the vines to bear abundant fruit was something that was well known to all the inhabitants of Israel and everyone could imagine this scenery.

Yesterday – as I was pondering this parable – I thought that if Jesus lived and taught in the 21st century, if he lived today in Kettering or in any other town in our country, he would have used a completely different example or comparison. Probably today Jesus would have told us a completely different parable about some work in a factory, warehouse, supermarket or any other place that we know from our everyday lives. However, let’s try to understand the content of this gospel and try to think for a moment what God wants to tell us today and what is the message of this tragic and sad story.

The main character of today’s gospel is a landowner who has worked for many years to make his vineyard bear fruit. “He fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and build a tower”. We can imagine his great determination and care for even the smallest grape plant. Perhaps the vineyard was his only source of income, perhaps he inherited it from his parents, or he bought it with his hard-earned money. At some point, however, the landowner decided to do something completely new – someone might say – he did something crazy, because – as we heard – he leased the vineyard to other people. How much risk he took and how much he trusted people he probably didn’t know and had never met before? Unfortunately, the whole story has a very sad and even tragic ending as the tenants showed great ingratitude and greed, injuring and killing the servants including the landowner’s son.

I am convinced that none of us deserved to be compared or identified with the unworthy and cruel tenants of today’s gospel because none of us has ever done such great harm to other people. I think today God wants to remind us of a very basic truth about our lives, that each of us has received many gifts and talents from him, the most precious of which is, of course, the gift of our faith and the gift of our life. But in addition to these two priceless gifts, we also received our health, family and many other material things such as a home, car, money, computer, and many other things. But we need to remember that all these things do not belong to us forever, but – like the vineyard in today’s gospel – they have been leased to us, and one day God will ask us about the fruits of our work and our whole life.

In today’s gospel, Jesus above all wants to encourage us to do honest work in the vineyard to which we have been invited and sent on the day of our baptism. Our vineyard is our home, family, parish, hospital, wherever we work and rest and wherever we meet other people.

What can be the fruit of our work? I think there is someone who can help us find the answer to this question. This is a saint whose liturgical commemoration we celebrate on the fourth of October – that is today. The example of his life – that we know very well – shows us what it means to be completely free and independent of material things and other people. As we know, at some stage in his life, young Francis strongly opposed his father, refusing to take over his property and other riches. I can definitely recommend to you the very old Italian-British film directed by Franco Zeffirelli – “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” which shows Francis’ great determination not to succumb to the temptation of an easy and comfortable life, but to follow his vocation.

Let us pray through the intercession of this great saint that, inspired by today’s Gospel, we may undertake work in our Lord’s vineyard with even more enthusiasm and zeal. Let us pray with the words of Saint Francis’ beautiful prayer, that the fruits of our daily work may be peace, love, pardon, faith, hope, light and joy.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.  

For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

St Francis of Assisi, pray for us. Amen

Fr Gregory Marchwinski