Updated: Oct 31
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things. Keep on doing what you have
learned and received and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you.”
From Sunday’s Second Reading: Philippians 4:6-9
Sometimes it’s like working on a puzzle to fit together the contrasting themes found within the readings of a particular Sunday. As we find ourselves getting closer to the end of our liturgical year, the readings become darker, filled with more conflict and challenge. The First Reading from Isaiah 5:1-7 and the Gospel from Matthew 21:33-43 could not be more aligned as they both speak of vineyards that are not being properly tended. Isaiah laments that although the owner of the vineyard, who is symbolic of God, carefully tended the land, it produced wild grapes, not fit for consumption. The people were not serving the Lord with fidelity and exchanging justice for violence and bloodshed. The Lord will allow the vineyard to fall in disrepair.
In the Gospel, the owner sent servants to obtain produce from those who were leasing the vineyard only to have them beaten and stoned. Then even the heir, symbolic of Jesus being rejected by those who should have received him well, was seized and killed. The result is that the kingdom would be taken away from those who rejected the Son and given to others who would produce spiritual fruit. These two readings, so alike thematically, are contrasted with one of the most upbeat passages in the New Testament from Philippians! Instead of violence, rejection and death, Paul calls us to focus on offering prayer and petition to God who can grant us peace to guard our minds and hearts. Then we hear the passage listed above, calling us to focus on the good things in life. Were those who selected these readings for this Sunday out of step, or is there a deeper connection here? Maybe when we encounter disappointment and conflict from others, the more we need to focus on the qualities Paul exhorts us to do: on goodness, not evil; on purity, not violence. In our lives we experience both rejection and the need for hope. May Paul’s words of encouragement help us persevere through the challenging moments of our lives.