"What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?" (Is. 5:4). God has done much and enough for his people to expect good fruits from them. Using the vineyard as a symbol for Israel, his chosen people, God makes a list of all the goods he has invested in his vineyard: he built it on a very fertile land, cleared it of stones dug in a well, planted choice vines in it, built a watchtower in the middle of it, and hewed out a vine press in it. Jesus adopts this vineyard imagery as a background or context for his parable in the Gospel of this Sunday's mass from Mt. 21:33-46. The tenants he leased his well-made vineyard to failed to be productive. He was patient with them and very benevolent, yet they rejected his help and support. They did not produce vine at the expected time.
We, the church, are God's vineyard. Each member of the church is God's planted vineyard. God has nourished us with all the necessary graces to make us fruitful in holiness and charity, but we often fail to produce the good fruit of the kingdom of God. Why are we not productive enough? How can we become more productive? We touched briefly on what we needed to do last week. We must adopt a humble attitude of self-emptying and repent of our sins, the sour or wild grapes we produce despite God's generous nourishment. We are not always yielding good fruits because we are not welcoming of Jesus enough. Our sin is in the way. We must repent and hate sin, mortal and venial. When we reject sin and embrace life in Christ, we will start producing fruits that God expects.
What are these fruits God demands and expects of us? The virtues. As I already mentioned, we should be manifesting holiness and charity. With the graces God continuously provides and his abundant mercy and patience with us, we ought to be living the virtues that St. Paul listed in his letter to the Philippians: "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" (Phil. 4: 6).
We must strive to live these virtues and more. God provides for us within the confines of the church the sacraments and other means of graces. The Eucharist is supreme among the sources of graces Jesus offers to aid us in living a holy and virtuous life. If we are properly disposed to and partake of the sacred meal, we indeed will be empowered to live a religious life. This is the proper time to produce wine from God's vineyard. We must become more active participants in the sacred mystery, the mass. The Eucharist is the most effective way of intimacy with the Lord; he is the vine, and we are the branches. There are other means of growing in grace, of course. We can commit our time to many church devotions to grow in holiness. God has done so much for us in the life of grace; let's take action.
In October, we pay more attention to praying the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In addition to devout worship of Jesus in mass and adoration, pray the rosary daily. Meditation on the mysteries of our redemption is an excellent help to living a holy and virtuous life. We have many opportunities for these pious practices in our parish. Our monthly adoration is at 6 p.m. on Monday, and we pray the rosary every Sunday between masses and before daily masses.
Today is our parish picnic! We have long waited for this day and put so much into planning it. I would really encourage you to attend. Please prioritize this time of socializing, eating, drinking, dancing, and playing with your parish brothers and sisters. Our turnout for coffee and donuts last week was very encouraging. We probably had our biggest attendance so far. It was a dream realized to see our people coming together as one family. Thank you for your good response. Let us keep that spirit alive. Come back to church this afternoon at 2 p.m., and let's relax and boogie down till sunset!
In His Joy,
Fr. Alayode Bernard, OP