Today, the Twenty-Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, we hear of banquets and feasting, weddings and rich foods, choice wines, and God’s promise to take care of all our fears and needs. I think that these readings are something that we need to hear—to be reassured by them and reminded of God’s grace—in the midst of this pandemic deprivation. We have been living without many things we love in order to keep each other safe: gatherings for many family events (happy or sad); or live music/theater/dance/films—lots of things that we considered “normal” to attend before Covid, and maybe didn’t appreciate… (The song says: You never know what you got ‘til it’s gone…)
Today we are reminded that we still have the opportunity for essential nourishment in our lives with the Word of God, the bread=body of Christ, and the body=the people of Christ (us); and yet many of us still experience times when there is just no more left in us due to pandemic fatigue. We may feel that we have nothing to give, nothing left to feel, just nothing left. We are running on empty and there is no more gas in the tank. But I say: when we feel our tank is empty, then it is because we have forgotten from where the gift of “go” and all other good gifts come!
St. Paul writes “I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need.” He points out that strength and sustenance come from the Lord, and we are all invited to the heavenly banquet. The Prophet Isaiah says “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples…wipe away the tears from every face…let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!” We believers really have no need to ever feel that we are running on empty—even as we miss the things and the ways of life from “before.”
I have written in past articles about creating a “new” normal in the future: one in which we more consistently examen our consciences about our society (for mercy and justice), our actions and our commitments and priorities for a better normal. We might begin by first simply remembering that there is a never-ending supply of God’s grace and compassion for us—truly a model for us, as His believers.
We can/must be “fueled” by the Body of Christ in the families around us: our personal families, our parish families, our larger Communities as we keep busy and safe as work and play and school begin again. As believers we must stop, take stock, reconcile our lives and ‘fill up’ on prayer and praise and thanksgiving—even as we sometimes feel deprivation and sadness. It’s all about re-focusing ourselves with what can/may be done in spite of the virus.
Our lives are relational. We are able to keep each other safe with the pandemic recommendations given by our experts, our Archbishop and our Pastor—because, yea!—some of our groups may actually begin to gather, carefully, Our tombstones won’t list our jobs or stuff; they list our relationships! Because in our relationships is we are fed; where we are lifted up. A door closes, a window opens. Parting and separation feel like death; but just remember God will wipe away all tears. Our Lord reminds us in the Twenty-third Psalm today that our ‘tank’ will be full; our cup shall run over and we will always be refreshed in our faith and love. Keep up your hope, keep safe, and
Keep singing in your hearts!
Just a Note: I received this from a friend and wanted to share—as it reminds me of the Prayer of St. Francis (we just celebrated his Feast Day).
The more you give, The more you get,
The more you laugh, The less you fret,
The more you do unselfishly, The more you live abundantly,
The more of everything you share, The more you'll always have to spare,
The more you love, The more you'll find That life is good, And friends are kind,
For only what we give away enriches us from day to day.
Also: “I Will Arise” this music is traditional, arranged by Robert Shaw. Another offering from my son, Elliott’s professional choir—something needed in the “now.” https://youtu.be/M0vo43hu_HQ
In the readings today (this Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time) we hear stories about vineyards and harvests and bearing good fruit. The First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah talks about doing all the work preparing the ground and vines for good produce, and then being disappointed with the result. The vineyard did not produce good fruit—in spite of all that was done in order to create wonderful grapes and a bountiful harvest. God looked for a specific outcome from his people, the vineyard of Israel, and it didn’t happen. We who have gardens ourselves, know how this may occur… The psalm today asks God for protection of the vine from those persons passing by and from destructive beasts. The Gospel today is the parable about the vineyard and the tenants who kill the owners’ son. Jesus says: “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” What fruit is that?
I think the answer to this question comes today from St. Paul who tells us “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious…think about these things.” This is a very explicit “yardstick” for measuring all we do and say—and how to produce good fruit for the Kingdom. What a wonderful world it would be if all of us measured our actions by this “yardstick” and then behaved accordingly! Many of us don't take time to evaluate our lives: our habits and patterns of thinking, how we act and speak, how we are motivated. This is definitely not a new problem, it is rooted in human nature. To do everything in a seemingly right way—like the vineyard steward in the Old Testament—and not have a good result, should give us pause and “food for thought” for reconciliation and results. Because it does matter what is in our hearts and minds as motive for our actions. Don’t get me wrong—it is a bit better, I think, to do good acts with poor motivation, than to do nothing at all when needed…
What’s the answer, then, if we are driven to good acts for “wrong” reasons, or our produce/result is a failure, faulty? What hope is there? Again, look to St. Paul, who tells us to not be anxious, but to live by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving. That is the place to begin. We are all on a journey to be our best and better selves; and everything takes practice. Think about these things: are our choices true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and gracious? Am I motivated in all I do and say by these good things? Pray about it—and look for God’s guidance in order to produce good fruit in yourself and for others.
You are rooted in the truth of Christ—so looking closely at what that means is what you are called to do every day and in every way. That kind of vigilance calls for focused attention, for undistracted prayer. Last week I wrote about invoking Jesus’ name to call us to our better selves; but any reminder will do. Some people wear the cross or crucifix, some wear bracelets with “What Would Jesus Do” on them. Some wear T shirts proclaiming their faith…
There was the joke about the man who wore a T shirt to bed w his PJ bottoms; when he awakes his wife says to him: “Hey, what is written on your T-shirt?” She reads aloud: “I promise not to sleep in church, especially during the sermon. I will read the Bible and say my prayers. I promise not to sing off key and to always arrive on time. I promise not to complain when the basket is passed around for the collection. I will never chew gum in church or sneak out early. Because I am the minister ... I AM the minister ... I AM THE MINISTER.”
We all need reminders to be the best selves God meant for us to be. Some wear jewelry, some wear T shirts…St. Paul tells us “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious…” Do not to be anxious, but live by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving. We are the vineyards. Our lives, actions and choices must be rooted in our faith to produce that good, spiritual fruit in the world. This is our task, our calling, and our joy. Everyone who wears the name of Christ is called to a holy and spiritual life. Godliness is supposed to be the norm for us! God is honored best in the everyday and ordinary things of your life: a life rooted in love and mercy, kindness and compassion. This is the way to produce good and spiritual fruit, to be a godly vineyard for the world. Keep singing in your hearts!
Just a note: Here is another offering from the choir with which my son, Elliott (third line down—first men’s line, farthest on the right) sings: “Beati Quorum Via” by C.V. Stanford. “Blessed are those who live with integrity, who walk in the laws of the Lord.” Great musical message for today - enjoy!
Stanford Beati: https://youtu.be/4y5ShgZyDPU
David J. Conrad, M.A. Theology. Our Director of Faith Formation.