during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic
The Vineyard of the Lord.
The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: Today God invites all of us to work in the vineyard, to help create the world as God wants it to be. There is no room for exploitation and oppression. We are all collaborators, working to build the kingdom where peace, justice and love are the fruits of the harvest.
Introduction to the reading: Today’s reading begins with Isaiah singing a song to the people. He uses his song as a parable so that he can then speak to them about God’s disappointment. God had lavished his loving care upon them … and their response was sin.
A reading from the Book of Isaiah
Let me sing for my beloved a love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge, I beg you, between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it?
When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry!
The word of the Lord.
R/: The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel.
You brought a vine out of Egypt;
you drove out the nations and planted it.
It stretched out its branches to the sea;
to the River it stretched out its shoots.
Then why have you broken down its walls?
It is plucked by all who pass by the way.
It is ravaged by the boar of the forest,
devoured by the beasts of the field.
God of hosts, turn again, we implore;
look down from heaven and see.
Visit this vine and protect it,
the vine your right hand has planted,
the son of man you have claimed for yourself.
And we shall never forsake you again;
give us life that we may call upon your name.
O Lord God of hosts, bring us back;
let your face shine forth, and we shall be saved.
R/: The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel.
Introduction to the reading: We continue our series of readings from Paul’s letter to the Christian community of Philippi in northeastern Greece. Of all the communities founded by Paul, Philippi was his favourite. While he was in prison, he wrote them a letter of gratitude and encouragement. In today’s passage, we will hear Paul present a list of classical Greek virtues, and remind the people that he not only taught these virtues, but he lived them.
A reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians
Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.
The Word of the Lord.
I chose you from the world that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, says the Lord.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
At that time: Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people, “Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.
The Gospel of the Lord.
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
Once at a Church meeting a wealthy member of the church rose to tell the rest of those present about his Christian Faith. “I’m a millionaire,” he said, “and I attribute my wealth to the blessings of God in my life.” He went on to recall the turning point in his relationship with God. As a young man, he had just earned his first dollar, and he went to a Church meeting that night. The speaker at that meeting was a missionary who told about his work in the mission field. Before the offering plate was passed around, the preacher told everyone that everything that was collected that night would be given to this missionary to help fund his work on behalf of the Church. The wealthy man wanted to give to support mission work, but he knew he couldn’t make change from the offering plate. He knew he either had to give all he had or nothing at all. At that moment, he decided to give all that he had to God. Looking back, he said he knew that God had blessed that decision and had made him wealthy. When he finished, there was silence in the room. As he returned to his seat and sat down, an elderly lady seated behind him leaned forward and said, “I dare you to do it again!” When we start out, it’s easy to remember that the gifts and opportunities that come our way are from God. But something happens along the way. We forget the Owner. We come to think of the vineyard and everything it produces as something we own.
In the Lectionary on the pulpit, the reading from Isaiah is printed to look like the poem it was in the original. In rich imagery, a friend of God speaks on God’s behalf to us. But what starts as a love song turns discordant at the end.
The first part of the reading describes a careful preparation for a vineyard. Then the vintner asks, “What more could I do?” Having heard the preparation of the vineyard, we would answer, “Nothing more!” We cannot ignore this initial message of the poem. God has shown tender love for the people and has prepared them well: “…dug up, planted and cleared.” Which makes us ask: Do we notice God’s loving care in our lives? God is not aloof, God is not watching you at a distance – far away. God is nurturing and giving us every opportunity for fruitfulness – for us individuals, but also for the believing community, the church.
God sounds just like a parent: God is like parent spending years giving a child the best family environment and education possible. Then the parent learns that the child has got into trouble. “What more could I have done to prevent this?”, the parent laments. The narrator’s voice returns at the end of the passage to make sure there are no doubts about the application of this story. “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel… God looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! For justice, but hark, the outcry!”
In Isaiah’s parable, the vineyard itself is a disappointment – it “yielded wild grapes.” Now where did these come from since it was planted with “the choicest vines” and lovingly tended? The owner certainly didn’t ignore this vineyard. It seems to be the vineyard’s doing. This is a parable and in such stories, even a vineyard can be cantankerous and rebellious. It’s the vineyard’s fault, the prophet tells us.
An Israelite could not hear a story about a vineyard without knowing that the vineyard was an often-used metaphor for the house of Israel. The people knew that God had chosen, planted, tended and promised to watch over them. Since they would know the parable applied to them, Isaiah invites “the inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah” to respond to God’s questioning lament, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?” Failure to yield good fruits was not due to God’s holding back, or stinting on the vineyard. The people are invited to pass judgment and the judgment applies to them.
In Isaiah, justice means fair and equitable relationships in a community that has, as its base, the justice of God. This justice is expressed through honest dealings with one another; it fails when a more powerful class of people takes advantage of the weaker. It fails when there is a big gap between the rich and the poor.If we are in good relationship with God, then from that relationship will come fidelity in doing the works God expects of us: works of justice in the community. These should be the characteristics of a people “under God.” The prophet suggests that failure of justice/righteousness will lead to disaster for God’s people.
The love poem ends with a powerful indictment that its audience must apply to itself. It stops short of actually pronouncing the judgment, implying there still is time to change and conform to God’s ways. As always, you can hear the God of love, who raised up a people out of slavery, reminding the people what is expected of them if they are truly to be God’s people. They must be a just people, unlike the people of other gods. In their midst the poor are to be cared for and justice is to prevail – a sure sign that this nation has a different kind of God who sees to the needs of the poor, the orphaned and the widowed.
We have our modern Isaiahs, powerful prophetic voices to lead us in God’s ways. Notice, for example, how frequently our Pope and bishops have spoken out against violence in the world, the arms trade, on behalf of the poor, for the care of creation, etc. We are called again to read the document Laudato Si’ and respond by facing the issues facing out planet.
All Catholics have special responsibilities to protect human life and dignity and to stand with those who are poor and vulnerable. We are called to welcome the stranger, to combat discrimination, to pursue peace and to promote the common good.
We church members call ourselves, “God’s people,” the “vineyard of the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah is also speaking to us today and challenges us. We trace our faith life to its origins in God, who planted the seed of the Christ-life in us; nourished it by the scriptures and sacraments and gave us prophetic witnesses, parents and teachers.
God has also protected that life within us when it was stressed and tested; renewed it when we wandered and caused it to grow at the most unexpected times. So, the first thing we do at this Eucharist is remember with gratitude and thanks our caring and nourishing God.
But we have to ask the question that Isaiah asks: After all God has done for us, what fruits will God find at vintage time? We are the “people of God,” we are “the vineyard of the Lord.” We ask: do our poor receive preferential option; is there discrimination in our assemblies against the aged, disabled, gays, women, the ones without ID books and can’t get work, etc? Are the home-bound made to feel part of our community?
The table set before us is a meal for all, for the rich, the poor, the powerful and the weak to eat the same food. The life of Jesus is given to us today to form us into a community that puts the usual ways of judging aside. We have to be sure to practice in our lives what we do at this Eucharist. If there are no distinctions here in our worshiping community, then there are no distinctions outside.
Finally, the owner of the vineyard sent his son to [the tenants of the vineyard], thinking, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, “This is the heir. Come let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.” They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”
Jesus is telling us something about God that we need to hear. God doesn’t give up on us, even when we have turned away from God. God is even willing to risk looking foolish in our eyes, willing to come again and again to us. God’s love doesn’t diminish, even when we reject God or live lukewarm lives of faith.
So we ask ourselves:
Leader: Let us thank God for the wonder of “our common home”, and pray that God will always keep us mindful of our responsibility for it and for each other.
We pray for Pope Francis and all our bishops:
that they may continue to teach us to be sensitive to the needs of our world.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for those suffering the effects of climate change through extreme weather conditions, storms and drought.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for those working for peace and justice in the world:
that they may help us to avoid the threats that confront us.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for young people as they look to the future: that they may see how they can play their part in building God’s new world.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for those who are sick and those who care for them: that the Lord may give them healing and hope.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time, especially for Marc Masson and Margaret and Otto Dale.
LORD HEAR US
Leader: Let us pray our PRAYER for strength in this challenging time:
We pray for your love and compassion to abound
as we walk through this challenging time of the coronavirus pandemic.
We ask for wisdom for those who bear the load
of making decisions with widespread consequences.
We pray for those who are suffering with sickness
and all who are caring for them.
We ask for protection for the elderly and vulnerable
to not succumb to the risks of the virus.
We pray for misinformation to be curbed
that fear may take no hold in hearts and minds.
As we exercise the good sense that you in your mercy provide,
may we also approach each day in faith and peace,
trusting in the truth of your goodness towards us.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment,
feed my soul at least spiritually.
I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: Yours, O God, is the vineyard and its harvest,
yours the kingdom of justice and peace.
You call your people to tend its growth.
Bless the work entrusted to our hands,
that we may offer you
an abundance of just works,
a rich harvest of peace.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.