27th Sunday Year
Sunday 8th October 2023
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
After Jesus had expelled the money changers from the temple, the religious leaders confronted him questioning his authority to do such things. In response he confronted them about the way they were practising their faith. He used parables to warn them about the judgement that would come upon them if they didn’t change.
‘There was a landowner who planned and planted a magnificent vineyard. It had strong fences to keep out foraging animals, a winery to process the produce and even a security system. The landowner then leased out the vineyard to tenant farmers as he intended to travel overseas for an extended period. At harvest time he sent his agents to collect his rent. The farmers ganged together and attacked them, killing one, beating another and stoning a third. The landowner sent more agents but the same was done to them. Finally, he sent his son to deal with them, thinking, “They will respect my son.”
But when those tenants saw the son, they thought their chance had come to definitely take over the property. “This is the heir, with him dead and out of the way, we will have no challengers to his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him off the vineyard and murdered him.’
Then Jesus directly asked the chief priests and elders, ‘What do you think the landowner will do now?’ They replied, ‘He will destroy those evil men and lease the vineyard out to tenants who will pay their rent at the right time.’
So Jesus said to them, ‘Haven’t you read the Scriptures, where it says that the stone that the builders decided to reject was the very stone that God used to hold the building together. This is a wonder to see. So I’m telling you that God is going to take the kingdom from you and give it to a people who will produce its fruit.’
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Ps 79:9, 12-16, 19-20
God, you bought Israel, your vine, out of Egypt,
You drove out nations for space to plant her.
She took deep root and her branches spread far and wide.
So now, why, why have your broken down her vineyard walls.
Passer-bys are looting her.
Boars are ravaging her roots.
Wild beasts are devouring her.
Please, O God, turn, return, look at us!
Look at this vine,
this vine that needs protection,
this vine your love had made strong.
If fill us with your life we will not turn away from you.
Your name will be the cry of our heart.
Come, come, O God, restore us,
Shine the light of your face on us,
and we will be saved.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving God, you have bestowed many gifts and talents on each of us. Send us the wisdom of your Spirit that we may make good use of these blessings. May our use reflect the fullness of life that Jesus desires for us. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
One needs to be very clear about the context of this parable. Jesus told it directly to the chief priests and elders, that is to the religious leaders, when they objected to him cleansing the temple of the money changers and questioned his authority to do so. He shows that he knows how much animosity and anger they have towards him but he still confronts the way they have failed to truly serve God. In the context, there were probably many other people standing around listening.
The imagery of the vineyard comes from the prophet Isaiah and is this Sunday’s First Reading. It was a potent image for the Jewish people as they saw themselves as God’s vineyard. They would have understood the landowner as God and the tenants as the religious leaders. Image the horror as the parable goes on and the leaders are shown to be murderous scoundrels, who instead of leading and supporting the people in their commitment to God took the fruits of God’s service for themselves.
After hearing this parable directed at them, these leaders, rather than repenting, begin to collude together to plan his arrest.
This parable has sometimes, mistakenly, been used to show that God’s choice of Israel as his chosen people has passed to the Gentile church. That is not part of the parable. It is the religious leadership that was being rejected. When Matthew wrote this parable into the Gospel, the church consisted of both Jewish and Gentile Christians and they would have read this as a warning to their religious leaders about the way they were to serve God and the people.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
Our parish offered the Little Rock Scripture programme and one year we were doing the ‘History of Israel.’. After studying this, we could say that Jesus’ summary of the history of Israel given in this parable is spot on, except for one element. He underplays the numerous opportunities that God offered to Israel to respond to his love. From Moses to Malachi, there were judges, kings, priests and prophets and a whole variety of circumstances by which God called his people to respond to the love he bestowed on them. The response he wanted was simple: the response of faithful love.
What is chilling about this parable is that it was not directed towards the ‘rotters’ of his society – the tax-collectors and prostitutes – but rather to the religious leaders, the very people who believed that they were faithfully following the laws of God and teaching others to do the same. Somehow, their observance had become twisted and they had failed to produce the fruit of religious practice.
The fruit of religious observance is to be holy – ‘God-like’ and we are most God-like when we are merciful. God is constantly extending mercy to us and it is when mercy passes through us that we receive salvation. If we do not show mercy, there is nothing within us that God’s mercy can latch onto. No matter how faithful we are to religious practice, we cannot take God’s mercy for granted.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
This parable was directed at the religious leaders of Jesus’ time and can be said to be directed to the religious leaders of our time, that is virtually anyone reading this. Yes, I can see your head popping up: ‘Me? But I’m only… (insert whatever you were going to say)’. Yes, but you are educated enough to be reading this. While you probably dismissed yourself as only a parent, a catechist, a StVde P member … yet, you, in some way, lead people.
God has gifted you and this Sunday’s parable is a warning, a wake-up call to assess how you are using your gifts. In stressing the mercy of God, we can be mistaken in thinking this lets us off the hook concerning our call to serve seriously with our gifts.
And what is the primary service that God desires us to reveal but the divine love and compassion in the world. We are the only face of God that most people will ever see. All around us the harvest is there: family members, neighbours, workmates. Now is the time to stop and consider: ‘In this coming week, what is a way that I can show God’s compassion to another person?’ It may be as simple as a phone call or a visit to a lonely person, the offer of lift to the doctor for a person with mobility problems, a meal to a sick neighbour. If you have trouble thinking of something simple that you could do, stop, pray and God will reveal an opportunity!
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
– This illumination is from the Evangeliaria of Echternach, a 10th century Gospel book.
– Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen from a Jan Luyken etching.
– James Tissot’s painting graphically shows the murdered son.
– Ian Pollock’s painting shows the Son as the victim of modern violence.
– Parable of the Wicked Tenants by James B. Janknegt.
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
We have each been given gifts and talents by God. The ‘payment’ that we must make for these gifts is not usually given directly to God but rather is used in service of others. Through this week, mull on the gifts that you have been and how you use them for those around you. These gifts might be
– the ability to cook or clean,
– the ability to speak kindly,
– the ability to do our work well
– your own personal gifts.
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
Rest in the love of your God.
When you are at rest, consider the gifts and talents that God has bestowed on you….as many as you can think of. Amongst those gifts, consider the ones that you neglect, or do not use in some way in service of others.
Resting in God’s love, recognise that God desires from you the use of these gifts. Imagine how you could bring them into use, in a way that does not make your life overly busy. What could let go of to develop that gift? Can you think of practical steps you could take to realise some of those gifts.
Rest in God’s love.