27A – 8 Oct 2023

27A – 8 Oct 2023

Fruitful Vineyard

Message by: Fr Richard M Healey

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MP3 media (9am Mass)

MP3 media (10:30am Mass)

In this homily, Fr Richard Healey discusses the themes of love, grief, loss, and justice as portrayed in love poetry, the writings of the prophet Isaiah, the psalm, and the gospel. He connects these themes to current events such as violence in Israel, and environmental concerns. He emphasises the need for justice and integrity, highlighting the small changes that can unravel everything. Fr Richard discusses a parable told by Jesus, emphasising the opportunity for repentance and embracing the way of justice. He also expresses their own sense of grief and loss, inviting listeners to embrace faithfulness to God to live a fruitful life.

Now, I don’t know how many of you spend much time reading love poetry or listening to love songs. I won’t ask for a show of hands. But you know, when you look at popular culture, it’s such a dominant kind of theme. You know, that unrequited love or the experience of what happens after that relationship has broken apart. And, you know, we feel that so, so deeply. There’s that sense of devastation and loss and grief and all of that. And I think tapping into that experience is really helpful as we go back almost 3000 years to the opening reading and that first love poetry of the prophet Isaiah. He captures that sense of grief and loss that the Lord felt. As Isaiah says, What more could the Lord have done? You know, he planted this choice vineyard. It was the best of soils. He built a fence around it to protect it from the wild beasts and passers by. He built a tower in the centre and the winepress was there.

(00:01:14) – He planted the soil with the best of vines. He watered it. He tenderly cared for it. And yet this vineyard didn’t produce even the best of wines. It just didn’t produce even, you know, ordinary kinds of wine, ordinary kinds of grapes. All it produced was sour grapes and that sense of grief and loss that we hear. Then also in our Psalm, Psalm 80, written many centuries later as people reflected on what happened after the exile, after they’d lost everything, after the temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed, after all of that. And then, of course, in the gospel, Isaiah writes, at a time when the temple is still there, the temple is still surrounded by foreigners, by enemies. The northern kingdom is on the brink of collapsing and falling, but the southern kingdom is still holding out, even though the Assyrians are this brutal force. And so this sense of Isaiah understands as he receives this inspiration from the Lord of what went wrong. And so often it is just this small change that is made.

(00:02:26) – The last two lines of our first reading today is so poignant, especially, I’m told in the Hebrew. Because what did the Lord look for? He wanted justice. And in Hebrew the word is mizpat. But instead he received mizpah. Not justice, but we get bloodshed. Rather than integrity or righteousness: the Hebrew word is tzedeqah rather than tzedeqah, we get tze-aqah. So just this slight change, this cry of lament, this outcry that we receive, that we hear. And so often we have to recognise that it’s not in the big, bold kind of actions where we fall apart and our lives unravel. It’s often just this little slight change, this little adjustment that happens when we’re moving in one direction and we just kind of stumble and begin to move in a slightly different direction. Just the difference of one letter. And often that’s enough to completely unravel our whole sense. And then that just continues and things begin to move further and further apart. There was a report this week that this year is on target to exceed the 1.5 degree threshold that is commonly said to be the tipping point for our world and for the whole of the environment.

(00:03:59) – Pope Francis released a new apostolic exaltation to us, reminding us that we can’t continue just to let things be the way that they are. This whole sense of injustice, this outcry, this bloodshed that we see in the world that we hear about over night in the situation in Israel, as we continue to experience the effects of violence and hatred, let’s say, bubble further up and within our lives. We have to face this. We have to deal with this. 

The gospel is the middle parable of a series of three that he tells – not to the disciples – but to the religious leaders in Jerusalem. Remember, Jesus has now made his way to Jerusalem. He’s arrived in the city. This is in the final week of his life. Holy week, we would call it. And everything is really intensifying. There’s this whole sense that all of the bets are off now because Jesus knows that this is. Last chance to really confront the religious leaders, to tell them what they need to hear, to allow them this final chance to repent, because the Lord is always offering us one more chance to to turn away from the bloodshed, to turn away from that cry of distress.

(00:05:17) – The Lord is offering us one more chance to embrace once again the way of justice, the way of integrity that the Lord is calling us and inviting us to say, Look, this is your opportunity. This is your chance to turn again, to turn away from the rotten, sour fruit and to begin to produce this abundance that he’s wanting of us, this desire that he has, that we might experience just that true fecundity, the true fruitfulness the Lord is offering to us, Will we embrace the chance? Will we take the opportunity today to turn away from our sin? And as I read these readings during the week, you know, is this feeling, this deep sense of grief and loss, as I reflected on my own life and my own sinfulness and my own of the ways that I’ve turned away, that I’ve just made this slight adjustments in my life that have have allowed my life to be way less fruitful than I want it to be. As I’ve looked around at the world and seen the same outcomes, the same results in the world, this sense of grief that the Lord feels towards us and towards our community, let’s indeed allow the Lord to nurture us once again.

(00:06:29) – The malls may have been destroyed, but we can rebuild them. We can allow God to once again be the very centre of all that we do. We can desire to to turn back our lives in faithfulness to God and to allow his call to embrace us and to allow his desire that we might be fruitful, that we might be people who embrace justice, that we might be people who live in integrity, that that will be the sign that we can finally experience the goodness of God among us.

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