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BUT WHERE ARE THE FRUITS? A reflection for the 27th Sunday of the Ordinary Time, Year A.
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Wed, 07 Oct 2020

Readings: Is 5:1-7; Phil 4:6-9; Mt 21:33-43

    The technique of role-playing in our first reading today is a remarkable one. Prophet Isaiah is playing this role in singing the “song of the vineyard.” Have you thought about a trusted friend of yours serving as your “best-man” at your wedding? Your friend knows your mind and feels your cares. What a surprising thing!

   However, today’s song of the vineyard is not a sweet song or a lovely hymn. It is a sad outcry about disappointment and wounded love. It points out regret and grief from God, who nurtured Israel’s children over the years of the hard life. God initiated Israel’s historic liberation from Egypt. He led the exodus, chose the people as God’s own people, and settled them in the richest plains of the Mediterranean (Det 34:4). God guarded the chosen people through the ministry of priests, prophets, and kings. Several of them served the people with even their blood. This is the meaning of Isaiah’s song and the sense in which “the vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel” (Is 5:7). Now, the Lord says, where are the fruits? What responses do we make to God’s love, favor, justice, and providence? Are we indifferent?

   Where are the fruits(?) continues in the message of the Gospel. In this message, the tenants received the most desirable vineyard from the landowner. Today, where life and well-being still depend on sustainable agriculture and food security, the vineyard parable makes excellent sense. The new twist in the vineyard song and the tenants of the Gospel is no longer the indifference to God but antagonism against God’s will. The disappointment here regards the wide gap between God’s expectation (“they will respect my son”) and man’s action in the world (“come, let us kill him”). Even now, human beings who are only tenants in God’s world seize God’s will in man’s freedom. We trash God’s grace with our rashness, stone God’s goodness with our bad examples. And, we kill Christ again and again from the arrogance or impunity of our evil actions.

   In this nation, what can we make of the vineyard's song and the tenants' parable? We are still days into the memories of Nigeria’s sixtieth anniversary of independence. Where is the nation of our dream? Who are the “compatriots” that Nigeria sings about in the national anthem? Those born since 1960 are grandparents now; what is our story for our children? What exactly can we say is the “Nigeria call” that we are to obey as citizens? Is it not true that several of our politicians trade our people's safety with their quest for political power?

    The government asks us to speak in ways that unite the nation, yet we have no real country. Or, if we do, can we say that the present administration is fair in its appointments and policies, distribution of Nigeria’s commonwealth, or the promotion of equal opportunities for Nigeria’s federating units? Why are the armed jihadists untouchable in all parts of Nigeria? Why have they not been named and banned? Why is the Southeast a theatre for roadblocks of extortion and venues for military policing? Where are the fruits of unity?

    As we enter yet another ember month and watch this year literarily running away from before our eyes, we cannot read today’s bible lesson only in general terms. The song on the “vineyard” of the Lord does not stop on Bible pages. The new Israel of God is all those who come to God through their faith in Christ. It means “us” as baptized Christians, and all others are known to God though unknown to us. The religious leaders and political authorities are still present today. Every one of us has a responsibility as a family member or a faith community member. At the place where you stand, where is the fruit of righteousness?

 

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