Godlessness, Destruction — and Peace
User's Guide to Sunday, Oct. 5
Sunday, Oct. 5, is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A).
Oct. 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. To introduce or re-introduce your family to the Rosary, search YouTube for a 15-minute Video called “The Mystery of the Rosary, a short documentary on the Rosary.” It shares the history and some of the impact of this beautiful prayer.
Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:9, 12, 13-16, 19-20; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43
Today’s Gospel and first reading warn what happens to a society that rejects God, and it isn’t pretty. So how can St. Paul say not to worry?
Jesus tells the story of the householder who sends helpers to his vineyard, with disastrous results.
The story is an allegory. The householder is God. The vineyard is Jerusalem. The tenants are Israel’s leaders. The servants he sends, and whom his tenants kill, are the Old Testament prophets. His son is Jesus. The death that comes to the tenants could refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70, says the Ignatius Study Bible, which is edited by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch.
But like every Gospel passage, the story does not just refer to the past: It speaks to us today. The householder could be the Church. The vineyard could just as well be America. The tenants are our leaders. The servants are the modern-day bringers of the message: St. John Paul II, Blessed Mother Teresa and Venerable Fulton Sheen.
The death the tenants face at the end could also be used to refer to the problems overwhelming the world right now: terrorism, war, moral disintegration and Ebola.
If that sounds like a frightening, apocalyptic take, then it’s appropriate for the end of the liturgical year, when the liturgy reminds us of the terrible reality of a world without Christ.
But we do not need to read a divine conspiracy theory into history to know that a world without God invites destruction. God gives us his morality to protect us, not to punish us. When we ignore his rules, we are essentially ignoring the safeguards our lives could have.
This is made clear in the first reading from Isaiah and the Psalm about the master destroying his vineyard. Then the point is driven home in the Gospel.
But there is one little oasis of peace in today’s readings: St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
In it, Paul says, “Have no anxiety at all” and informs us, “The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” He tells us to focus our attention on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious.”
He sums up his message: “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.”
These are the remarkable words St. Paul wrote to his followers, even though the leaders of Jerusalem and Rome were against them and even though he had to send his words out from his prison cell.
St. Paul knows that ignoring God’s laws brings destruction. But he also knows that the opposite is true: If we keep the faith in our hearts, minds and lives, we will be saved.
“Have no anxiety at all” is a hard message in hard times. But if our God is the God of all — and he is — then there truly is nothing to worry about.
Tom and April Hoopes write from
Atchison, Kansas, where Tom is
writer in residence at Benedictine College.
- Oct. 5-18, 2014