Most of us accept what happens to us in life as part of life’s tapestry. In the main, we follow the same path we have always taken, or so it would seem, but - without realising it, one can drift from the sensible and fairly sane course taken by most people and drift into difficult waters.
The prophet Isaiah recognises the troubled waters the people of Judah and Jerusalem are heading for, and he expresses his concern in telling the people the Parable of the Vineyard. He begins by calling his people ‘his beloved’, so he’s not scolding them; he’s wooing them with soft words to attract their attention. Once he has their attention he tells them that they are the vineyard prepared by the Lord, and they have let themselves down by not following a course of action which keeps them safe from becoming a wasteland. Isaiah is sad because that is exactly what is happening to them and he laments their fall from grace.
Jesus uses the same metaphor of the vineyard for the people of Jerusalem, his people who he has come to save. They pay no attention to his warning, which will cause them grief and pain.
Today's readings are as relevant today as the day they were written. Man seems incapable of the personal reform Isaiah was trying to encourage his people to attempt. He speaks to them the words of the Lord who says;
‘Men of Judah, I ask you to judge between my vineyard and me.
What could I have done for my vineyard that I have not done? I
expected it to yield grapes. Why, then, did it yield sour grapes? Well,
I’m going to destroy it! I expected justice, but found bloodshed, ....
integrity, but only cries of distress’.
Humanity, all of us, will be judged on our treatment of each other and of the environment. The people of the world and the environment in which we live is our responsibility.
To continue this theme of personal responsibility, this year marks 5 years since the publication of Pope Francis’ Encyclical ‘Laudato Si’. ..... “Laudato si, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. It is about the care of our common home, the world and the care of its environment. I mention that because today, 4th of October is the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis’ name sake and patron, and the title of the encyclical is taken from a canticle written by St Francis. The canticle was addressed to God in praise and gratitude for creation. He wrote it in 1224, two years before he died. To put it into perspective, we read in Genesis: ‘When God created mankind in his image, he blessed them and said; “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth and be lords over it, [../..] rule over the fishes of the sea, the birds of the air and all cattle, all the earth, .... every tree which has in itself fruit that sows seed .... all the wild beasts of the earth".' (Gen: 1:24 ff) In short, God made man responsible for the care of Gods’ creation, including humanity itself.
In the very first paragraph of the encyclical Pope Francis writes: ‘Saint Francis [../..] reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise to you, my Lord, through our sister, Mother Earth who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”’. [the words of St Francis]
The second paragraph nails to the worlds communication networks one of the reasons for the encyclical with this sentence: ‘This sister [Mother Earth] now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters”.
The world, all creation, is God’s vineyard, and God put us in charge of it, to till it and care for it with love. So to end, a few words of advice from St Paul: “Brothers and sisters, fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise.” (Phil 4:8) . We pray that peoples of the world will respect God’s creation in all its forms, which will reflect our respect for the gifts with which God honours us.