Speak Lord: That we may be fruitful

Vines, pruned

Vines, pruned

Today’s Gospel allows us to hear words of encouragement from Jesus. He says we have been pruned by the word he speaks to us. And don’t we know it! How often we have been checked and challenged in our thoughts and actions by the words of the Lord.

He also today speaks of how, if we accept his invitation to live in him, we will bear much fruit, thrive and prosper in him.

Vines in bud

Vines in bud

Jesus said:

‘I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vinedresser.
Every branch in me that bears no fruit
he cuts away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
he prunes to make it bear even more.
You are pruned already,
by means of the word that I have spoken to you.
Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.
As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself,
but must remain part of the vine,
neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine,
you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me, with me in him,
bears fruit in plenty;
for cut off from me you can do nothing.

Vines in leaf

Vines in leaf

Anyone who does not remain in me
is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers;
these branches are collected and thrown on the fire,
and they are burnt.
If you remain in me
and my words remain in you,
you may ask what you will
and you shall get it.
It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit,
and then you will be my disciples.’

John 15:1-8

  • What life experiences have you had of pruning leading to greater fruitfulness?
  • What have you learnt from that?
  • Where is pruning and fruitfulness present in your life today?
Vines ready for harvest

Vines ready for harvest

Photographs of vines, Medjugorje, Bosnia Herzogovina. (c) Allen Morris, 2014, 2015.

Taste and See: diverting the harvest

Calvary

The gospel at yesterday’s Mass, on the 27th Sunday of Ordinary time, took mostly the form of a parable that speaks of the disaster of a leadership of Israel that hogs to itself the graciousness of God. That leadership hears words of rejection from the Son who they will, in their turn, have killed.

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

It was the stone rejected by the builders
that became the keystone.
This was the Lord’s doing
and it is wonderful to see?

‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’

Matthew 21:33-43

The first fruit of the great harvest of the kingdom of which Jesus speaks, as being taken from the powerful who do not give to God what is due to God, and given to others who will, is of course Jesus himself, in the glory of the Resurrection.

Resisting evil in the vineyard, in Israel, in the Church, and in how we live our own lives, is a challenge. But we have the opportunity to do it, offered us again and again in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are won by the mercy of God, and are armed with that mercy for the overcoming of evil.

  • What shapes you sense of justice?
  • What helps or hinders your ability to stand up for what is right and best and loving?

Photograph of the traditional site of Calvary, Jerusalem. (c) 2012, Allen Morris.

Speak Lord: your servants are listening

DSC06778

The gospel for today’s Mass, the 27th in Ordinary Time, has at its heart a parable addressed by Jesus to some particular people at a particular time. That is one level on which the gospel text works. But it is handed on to us in a written form that maybe gives additional emphasis to the killing of a son (echoing the killing of God’s Son at Calvary). As you read it, and as you hear it at Mass, what do you hear? Bring that to prayer.

God speaks in different ways to different people at different times. But God speaks, and we long to hear.

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

It was the stone rejected by the builders
that became the keystone.
This was the Lord’s doing
and it is wonderful to see?

‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’

Matthew 21:33-43

The photograph is of the Son taken and beaten, soon to be taken from the city, the vineyard of the Lord, and killed. Cloister of St Trophime, Arles. (c) 2014, Allen Morris

Speak Lord: Come to our aid

Musée de l'Arles antique Orantes

The responsorial psalm for the Mass of the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time echoes the theme of the first reading – yes, the Lord’s vineyard.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

You brought a vine out of Egypt;
to plant it you drove out the nations.
It stretched out its branches to the sea,
to the Great River it stretched out its shoots.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Then why have you broken down its walls?
It is plucked by all who pass by.
It is ravaged by the boar of the forest,
devoured by the beasts of the field.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

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 vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

And we shall never forsake you again;
give us life that we may call upon your name.
God of hosts, bring us back;
let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Psalm 79:9,12-16,19-20

What is different to other recent times that the vineyard has been presented in the Liturgy of the Word is that this time it is we – admittedly in the words of sacred Scripture – who lament the state of the vineyard, and implore The Lord to help us.

  • What are the things in our world that cause you to lament?
  • How can you be part of the Church’s witness of Good News in face of such sorrow?

Today, Friday 3rd October, is CAFOD Harvest Fast Day.

A day when we fast in solidarity with those who daily go without. A day when we think how to share what we have – often more than enough – with those who have less than is needed to survive.

You might like to find time to pray the following prayer:

2014b

Donations to the work of CAFOD can be made here.

Image of the Orantes figure, the Church at Prayer is from the Museum of Antiquities, Arles. Photograph (c) 2014, Allen Morris.