God is always faithful to his merciful love

Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, October 8, 2023

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Mons. Francesco Follo

(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 10.08.2023).- Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, October 8, 2023

The faithful God.

This Sunday’s first reading, taken by Isaiah 5: 1-7[1], is a masterpiece introducing the parable of Jesus who speaks of the vineyard and tells us that the punishment of God is to convert and not to destroy.

This prophet of the Old Testament uses the allegory of the vineyard to describe the story of the people of Israel when they betray the love of God, who had chosen them as the people to announce that He had not forgotten humanity and to give flesh to the Son of God.

However, this story of infidelity – Isaiah says – cannot go on forever. God’s patience has a limit and there will be a judgment (5.3). God expected fine grapes, and instead he got poor grapes (5.2). Without metaphors: he expected justice and there was oppression, he expected righteousness and there is dishonesty (5: 7). At this point there is nothing but punishment: the vine will fall in ruin and will no longer be cultivated, and brambles and blackthorns will grow. But God’s punishment is not forever.

God’s threats are to convert, not to destroy.

This is evident in the parable narrated today by Christ who, inspired by Isaiah’s song on the vineyard, points out that the sin of winemakers does not simply consist in a tough but generic disobedience to God. Their sin lies in the fact that the prophets and even the Messiah, the Son of God, are killed.

In addition, while on Isaiah’s song the master was expecting high quality grapes and got poor grapes, in the parable it is not primarily a matter of fruit. The farmers do not want to recognize the master as such. This is their sin. They behave as if the vineyard belonged to them. And when they kill his son, they say it is clearly: they want to become heirs and masters.

However, refusing the Lordship of God they reject the cornerstone, the only one that supports the world. Without the recognition of God, the world cannot exist and coexistence crumbles: «You can build a world without God, but it will always be against man «(Cardinal Henri de Lubac)

The poor of spirit: the faithful of God

God is always faithful to his merciful love and to his promises. His design of salvation is not interrupted, and his demands of truth and justice are not put aside. For this reason, Jesus, the Son of God, ends the parable with a positive vision: the perennial story of the love of God and the betrayal of man does not end in defeat. Sin does not stop God’s plan. The outcome of the story will be good, the vine will be generous in fruits and the Master will not waste in revenge the days of eternity. To reveal his goodness that does not react against evil but proposes good, the Messiah says that the vineyard is given to a New People, the left out of Israel and the poor in spirit who humbly accept Jesus and his happy Gospel of love.

In these little ones, «discarded» by the people in the same way as the «builders’ scraped the stones» crumpled and unsuitable for the building of the Temple, the Lord becomes the «Cornerstone» of the New Temple with his body risen and alive in history. The victory of God’s infinite patience over every religious or social criterion of justice is revealed in them.

Today, there is still the possibility of being part of this «remnant of Israel», of these poor in spirit. It is enough to acknowledge to be sinners, as did Peter on the banks of the Lake of Galilee when he delivered to Christ his pain and Christ confirmed him in his love. It is enough to welcome the invitation to go to work in the vineyard even if it is only one hour before the end of the working day. It is enough to convert our hearts to turn our «no» into a loving «yes».

Then, the «Vineyard» will be removed from our old self and will be donated to the new self, poor and therefore capable of welcoming forgiveness with astonishment and gratitude, humble to obey the Church, and holy because united with Christ, the fruit we are called to offer to the world.

In God’s vineyard, in his Church, everything is free. Free are the innocence and the virginity of Theresa of the Child Jesus, the testimony to the martyrdom of Peter and Paul, the conversion of Augustine and Charles de Foucauld, the theological science of Thomas Aquinas and John-Henry Newman, the ministry of mercy of Fr. Pius da Pietralcina, the mission of charity of Mother Teresa of Calcutta and the long list of the consecrated Virgins, the ones known to the Church as Saint Geneviève and Marcellina, Saint Ambrose’s sister, and the ones only known to God in whose heart their name is written.

Following their example, the consecrated virgins of today, and us with them, do not claim merit or pretense before God. He does not look at the amount of our performances. He looks at our heart and expects to find in it only our love, our trust, our adherence to his total call made with abandonment and loving trust. The important thing is that we humbly pray: «Protect me, O Jesus, and accept me with your holy hand. Open the door of your mercy so that, marked by your deep wisdom, I may be free from all earthly envy, and, according to your sweet precepts, may serve you in the holy Church in joy, day by day, progressing from virtue to virtue «(Gertrude of Helfta).

To him who said, «I am the vine and you the branches that I make fertile», we give thanks from the deepest of our heart and humbly ask that He gives us the grace of being always united to him in the eternal mystery of dying and resurrecting and of offering ourselves to the Father.

The consecrated Virgins in the world have offered and renew the offer of themselves “as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Rm12, 1). With this offer they adhere to Christ like the branches to the vine, and their being with Christ is the secret of their spiritual fertility.

Along with Christ, these consecrated women are close to their brothers and sisters in humanity whom they «cultivate» by taking care of their good.

[1] Now let me sing of my friend, my beloved’s song about his vineyard. My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; Within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he waited for the crop of grapes, but it yielded rotten grapes.Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem, people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: What more could be done for my vineyard that I did not do? Why, when I waited for the crop of grapes, did it yield rotten grapes? Now, I will let you know what I am going to do to my vineyard: Take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled!Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed, but will be overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds not to rain upon it. The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, the people of Judah, his cherished plant; He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!

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