Vineyards and vines appear throughout Scriptures and they represent Israel and God’s chosen people. In today’s first reading we have the fine prose of Isaiah, describing a friend who prepared the land and formed a vineyard, planting the best of vines and expecting a good yield. His hard work was rewarded with sour grapes. Isaiah explains that the vineyard will be allowed to be over-run, it will suffer drought and abandonment, the creator has lost patience with the vineyard. He reveals that the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel and the men of Judah the chosen vines. The sour grapes are bloodshed and cries of distress.

In our Gospel Jesus uses a similar example, however Jesus is more direct. In the passage which immediately followed last week’s Gospel when we heard of the two brothers who changed their minds about labouring in their Father’s vineyard; this week Jesus directs his parable straight to the Chief priests and the elders of the people. Jesus tells of the tenants; tenants is significant here; they may have been the chosen people, but they do not own the vineyard, they are present as long as the owner allows it. The messengers in the parable are the prophets sent to plead and direct the Israelites into changing their ways and coming back to the Lord. These were assaulted and some were killed. More servants were sent and they met with the same fate. Finally, Jesus tells them that the master’s son was sent and foretelling his own death, he predicts that they will plot his death and try to steal his inheritance.

The Chief priests will have been very aware of the connection, in fact if you continue with Matthew’s Gospel until the end of the Chapter it states “When they heard his parables, the chief priests and the scribes realised he was speaking about them, but though they would have liked to arrest him they were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet.” (Matthew 21:44-46).

We can listen to this parable and think that is the fate of the Israelites, but where do we fit in with this? Are we doing our best to follow the faith we profess? As I often do, I look to Fr Placid Murray for inspiration for my reflections, the reflection for this week includes the following –

How many messengers have we rejected? God uses many people as messengers. It could have been our Dad asking us to behave ourselves, it could have been our mother’s tears, or a sister’s kindness or a teacher’s warning or a priest’s advice. How short of a harvest will we be when the Lord of the vineyard comes to collect his produce?”

Many years ago, when I was not a regular at Mass, I was standing in a Baker’s shop in Tadley and a Parishioner came in and without warning announced to me that “I should be at Mass with my wife and children.” He promptly left, with me standing embarrassed beside a couple of work colleagues. I may not have liked his message, in fact it irritated me greatly; not because I thought it was none of his business, but because I knew he was right. I believe that man was used by God to deliver that message to me. He is now buried in the same cemetery as my Dad and every time I visit my Dad’s grave I visit his grave too and say a prayer for him. I see him as being crucial to bringing me back into the Church and I will be forever grateful to him.

The message delivered by Jesus all those years ago was delivered to the established Church, what message is Jesus giving to us today? Do we listen to or reject His messengers? Are we judgemental? Do we gossip? Do we criticise people behind their back? Or are we merciful? Do we refuse to listen to gossip and maybe even challenge those who share it? Are we supportive of those who need help?

The parables in the Gospel are meant to challenge us, they prompt us to ask questions of ourselves; our responsibility is to examine our behaviours and change them as we feel prompted. By responding appropriately, we will be able to deliver the produce to the Lord of the harvest when the season arrives.

This month of October is a time when it is traditional for Catholics to pray the Rosary, at a time of pandemic we are encouraged to offer up the Rosary to Our Lady, that she will intercede for us to relieve the suffering of those who are ill, to comfort those who are grieving, to protect those who are providing care and to inspire those who are working in the field of science to improve testing regimes or to find a vaccine which will be available for all. Mother of Perpetual Help pray for us.

Please keep in your prayers this week

  • Those continuing the RCIA journey next Wednesday at St Bede’s Hall.
  • All pregnant women, especially those in our parishes and families.
  • For vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and the religious life (please pray the rosary for this).
  • Those who are feeling isolated by health restrictions, loneliness or being far away from home.

Deacon Tony Darroch, 2nd October 2020.

If you are struggling to find resources or would like suggestions please email me on adarroch@portsmouthdiocese.org.uk or if you would appreciate the odd call from me during this time please send me a message with your contact details and I will get in touch.