Isaiah 5:1-7; Ps 80:9, 12-16, 19-20; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43
Holy Spirit, please guide us to your truth, vision and clarity. God created the world good and gave it to the first humans that he put in his beautiful and productive garden. Yet the sneaky snake told the first lie and took Adam and Even in the wrong direction. There was a punishment then and they lost the personal relationship with God each evening and the beauty of the Garden of Eden.
God was not happy with that outcome and kept making new covenants with humanity trying to redirect humanity. Finally God send his Son to speak to us in the human personage of Jesus Christ. But the “dark side” controlling most of the world especially the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem put God’s Son to death on the cross. What seem like the end God turned around for his good purpose.
The vineyard song in Isaiah 5 is really a prophetic image of God’s disappointment of the “wild grapes” yield of Israel past. After Jesus’ death, the old Judaism and Jerusalem were basically destroyed. Jesus took the basic Jewish roots in a new fulfillment as he formed his kingdom. He fulfilled the old and created a church to go worldwide, inviting humanity into a beautiful relationship with God to bear good fruit.
Grace, the fruit of the Sacraments
The sacraments in Jesus’ church are channels of God’s power flowing to his people. Each sacrament is meant to produce good fruit in us. Theologically, we call that fruit grace. I see it as divine power for making us better people in God’s human family to bring good things.
At Baptism we become members of Christ’s church (family). We are given ten gifts or fruits to become personally holy, more like God. We all get those gifts of faith, hope and God’s love or charity. Then we get what’s in Isaiah 11:2: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of disobedience, and respect for God’s ways.
In the Roman Rite of Christ’s church we receive God’s power in graduating order. We call this sacraments, which bring us into a progressive order of God’s power to do different things in our life and the world. We usually then receive Reconciliation where we get our past sins taken away. Then we are able to receive Jesus and more divine power in Holy Communion, his body and blood. Usually at daily Mass we are having “breakfast” with Jesus and he is the food. He gives us spiritual nourishment to love and bless others in the world.
Bearing good fruit
The sacrament of Confirmation is more adult power to serve and help others. Everyone does not get the same gifts. They are given to help us be instruments of God’s love for others. I can’t list all of those graces here. St. Paul gives some of them in four lists in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 and 12:28 (usually paid services), Romans 12:6-8 and Ephesians 4:11. As we use these graces to help others we then grow in the fruits of God’s love for us. There are nine of these fruits St. Paul lists in Galatians 5:22. We become more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kinder, more generous, faith-filled, mild mannered and self-controlled. This is what our scriptures means by bearing good fruit.
The image of the vineyard is belonging to the protective care of the church Jesus founded. Are we good shepherds, sheep and branches on the vine of Jesus Christ? Not always. None of us are always perfect on earth. The challenge is to come closer to Jesus Christ our true shepherd and vine. He is our Good Shepherd, our vine. We are his branches if we stay grafted into Christ.
Jesus is our Bread of Life, our fountain Living Water, our Bread of Life, and our Way, Truth and New Life. He is our only was to heaven because he is the Door and way to resurrected, glorious life in heaven.
Connected to the vine
If we are faithful Catholic Christians using the various sacramental graces of our church and daily prayers, we shall bear much fruit to make our world a better place to live in. St. Paul’s second reading today urges us to peaceful relationships with each other that bring us a sense of serenity and striking appeal to love and respect whatever in life is wholesome and sound amidst all the turmoil that can be around us.
The question then comes on how closely am I connected to the vine that is Jesus Christ and what is God’s plan for my life? At times we try to be our god and direct and control our lives. That is going in the wrong direction like much in our world. I want to get closer to Jesus and bear his fruit and grace in my life. I don’t do everything perfectly yet ask Jesus to give me more grace to be more fruitful for God and his kingdom. Let us help one another on this good journey of life as brothers and sisters. Amen.
Have a good and productive week and as Mary asks in her many apparitions, pray, pray, pray.
+ Fr. Bob Hilz
(© 2017 Fr. Bob Hilz, TOR)