Two parables about vineyards and the people who tend them. Neither story has a happy ending. Isaiah tells of a fertile hillside that receives wonderful care. But in the end it produces rotten grapes. In the Gospel it is the tenants who care for the vineyard that prove to be selfish and do evil things.
These two reading are separated by a lovely reading from the letter to the Philippians. In this reading Paul tell us not to be anxious but to continue to do good. Where is our message for this Sunday? If we take the reading from Philippians as our base, it can guide us through the other readings.
If we are truly examine our actions and find them trustworthy, God is and will be with us. If we rely on God to guide even though the way may be dark and unknown, then “the God of peace will be with us”.
But we so often go about our usual way of doing things. We receive wonderful care like the vineyard in the first reading. But we don’t tend to our inner life with as much care. We let superficial or material matters take precedence. We sometimes let our prayer simply be words without letting the mystery of God sink deep in our hearts. We look good one the outside but are superficial on the inside. So the real product we produce is like the rotten grapes in the reading from Isaiah.
Or sometimes, like the Gospel, we get so possessive of our corner of the vineyard that we don’t listen to the suggestions others may have. We have to do things our way and don’t want anyone to interfere or criticize or give helpful suggestions. In always doing things our way, we drive away people and/or ideas that can help us become more authentic persons.
When we don’t really tend to our inner life or when we insist that my way is the only way and don’t heed the advice of the wise persons among us, then it is impossible to really have that inner peace that Paul speaks of in his letter to the Philippians.
Let us examine our lives – our motives, the depth of our relationship with God, our relationships with others. Then as Paul says, “if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise…keep on doing what you have learned and received and heart…Then the God of peace will be with you.”