|Breaking Open the Word|
|World & Nation|
October 1, 2008
Breaking Open the Word
By James Cavanagh
Oct. 5: 27TH Sunday in Ordinary Time
Theme: Faithful stewardship. The image of the vineyard as a symbol of Israel appears frequently in the Old Testament. The reading from Isaiah and the responsorial Psalm are prime examples of this. The vineyard, which is also the subject of this week’s Gospel, is later applied to the Church, the “new Israel.” It is important to understand that the vineyard is not ours to do with as we please. The Church does not belong to us; it belongs to God (the “landowner”). He has entrusted it to us and expects us to take good care of it as faithful stewards. We have a responsibility to God and to those who have gone before us, as well as those who come after us, to take good care of that which has been entrusted to us, including the wider society. Faithfulness, justice and charity are the means by which the “vineyard” is cultivated so that it will produce the “sweet grapes” of goodness, truth and beauty (second reading). Selfishness, injustice and callousness only produce “sour grapes,” which are good for nothing and only lead to ruin.
Key verse: “The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant” (Is 5:7).
“Catechism of the Catholic Church”: “The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing” (No. 755).
Pope Benedict XVI: “Secularism challenges the Church to reaffirm and to pursue more actively her mission in and to the world. As the (Second Vatican) Council made clear, the lay faithful have a particular responsibility in this regard. What is needed, I am convinced, is a greater sense of the intrinsic relationship between the Gospel and the natural law on the one hand, and, on the other, the pursuit of authentic human good, as embodied in civil law and in personal moral decisions” (Response to U.S. Bishops, April 16).
Application: The principle of faithful stewardship applies not only with respect to our responsibility to the Church, but also to the wider society, which in a more general sense is also God’s “vineyard.” As Catholics, we serve the common good best by being true to our faith; not hiding it under a bushel basket but letting it shine for all the world to see (Mt 5:16). “If we really believe that the Gospel is true,” Archbishop Chaput said, “we need to embody it in our private lives and our public choices. The more truly we love God, the more truly we serve the world” (“Render Unto Caesar”).