Sacred Heart

Catholic Church

Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Fr. Paul Ward

Sunday, October 5, 2014
 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Sacred Heart Catholic Church

The Church of God Is the Vineyard of the Lord

   I begin today’s homily with an encouraging reminder of the High Tea which will be held next Sunday. It is a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon sharing an elegant culture of food, delicious teas and food may I add. Please call the office and let us know you’re coming, so we know how much to prepare, as much will be prepared by hand. Also, I’m very happy that today a large number of parishioners have begun, or will, participating in the course on the Bible by Jeff Cavins: I think the results will be superb. Furthermore, I have not forgotten that I have so far provided only four of the five proofs for the existence of God; later in October we shall see the fifth one.

   Today I wish to reflect upon our first reading: the Vineyard of the Lord in Isaiah 5. I have always found this passage striking, stirring.

   Let us begin by considering that all things have consequences. Good things have consequences, bad things have consequences. Let us look at some examples from the important choices we make in our lives. The choice we make of job or career determines much about how we spend the one lives we have, and in that work how we serve both God and neighbor. Or again, see the choices of spouse that so many make. Sometimes the choice turns out superb, other times the choice causes great heartbreak. Sometimes both. (Indeed, after last Sunday’s homily, I had mentioned how helpful St. Raphael the Archangel is for young people in courtship or who seek a spouse; and some ladies came complaining, “Oh Father, if only I knew that years ago! Now it’s too late for such help! Alas!)

   If one gives to the poor, the consequence is joy. If one gets drunk, the consequence is guilt – and maybe even a hangover! If one gives his life for Christ, the consequence is sainthood as a martyr. If one experiments with recreational drugs, the consequence is addiction and slavery. How often souls lament in tears… from their temper like a powder keg, they are alone and no one wants to be around them; from their impurity there is shame and broken homes; from their gluttony so many health problems; from their drunkenness so many failures; from their envy such deep bitterness; from their laziness so much irresponsibility; from their mediocrity, so many lost opportunities. Hence the regrets and weeping.

   And so we know that there are consequences to our actions. Let us keep that in mind as we reflect more over this passage of Isaiah 5:1-7, the Vineyard of the Lord.

   For here we find a vineyard, and it is obviously symbolic, so much so that the passage finishes explaining the symbolism: the vineyard is the chosen people – historically Israel, then Judah, and now the Catholic Church – but their deeds are bloodshed and injustice. How can a person claim the title of a child of God, as we the baptized do, but then commit murder and abuse his neighbor? How can one be adopted by the Father, and then steal from his neighbor, abuse a woman in adultery, do violence to his enemy or pour lies into the ears of one’s neighbor. You see, these actions have their consequences.

   Then the Lord does something that is enough to move a grown man to tears: he abandons the vineyard. He will take away the hedge, meaning, the protection of the angels. He will give it to grazing, meaning, the demons will come and devour any good they find. He will break through its wall, meaning, he will withdraw his divine protection. He will give it to being trampled, meaning, he will let these demons bring the sinner down to the level of dirt, dirt which is “humus” in Latin, humiliation. That soul will become a ruin.

   Why does God do this? Does not a Psalm read, “The Lord takes delight in his people”? Yes, and so we know that the type of abandonment that God permits to the obstinate sinner is not that of disowning; indeed, no one can ever become un-baptized. That obstinate sinner is a beloved soul of God. This abandonment of God is not a departure of God, but rather God letting the consequences of that person’s actions grow to fruition.

   Now, if a soul commits a sin, it is like a thorny, wicked growth begins. That’s the consequence coming forth. There is a solution to that: contrition and the sacrament of confession. In confession, the soul undergoes a pruning, and gets rid of all that nasty, evil growth. But see here what we find in Isaiah 5, “I shall make it a ruin, it shall not be pruned.” Eventually the soul will hit the bottom of the barrel, as we say, and in complete distress, it may cry out with repentance and sorrow to God, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you! Have mercy! Kyrie eleison!” And in that instant God’s mercy snatches up that soul from the hands of its enemies, and saves it. So this abandonment is not a final, definitive one; it is an abandonment to the consequences of sin, with the intention to save and cure.

   I look at our wonderful nation, and at the state of the world, and I see this is happening. Does God reproach Judah for bloodshed? Well, he reproaches Catholics who vote pro-abortion, which is bloodshed. And so we swim in an ocean of blood from more than 50 million babies, from millions chopped up in the last world wars, and ocean of tears from dishonest political wars which politicians wage; abortion, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, contraception, drug abuse, Freemasonry, Islam, violence, greed, …and the lies! And where there is no intention of overcoming these evils, the Lord lets these evils bear their evil fruit. This is why so many things in our world seem like they’re coming apart at the seams and no one seems to be able to stop it. And when as individuals, groups and nations we fall on our knees recognizing that we have brought such wretchedness upon ourselves, God will graciously hear our prayers and intervene and save us.

   Church of God, you are the vineyard of the Lord, the cherished plant, the apple of God’s eye. Bear sweet fruits, which are works of holiness, the simple things which are small in the eyes of the world, such as prayers, penances, participation in the sacraments, the practice of the virtues, and the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The Blessed Virgin bore a great fruit, the fruit of her own womb, for which we turn to her intercession constantly. Amen.
















Archives of Homilies on the New English Translation