“Called to bear good fruits”
(Fr Regie, MSP)
Our readings for this Sunday use the image of the vineyard to help us reflect God’s invitation to bear good fruits by remaining in him. We recall Jesus’ claim in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing.” Do we see a deeper meaning of being intimately connected with God in such a way that our lives bear good fruits for our family and society? We probably have the capacity to do good without God since we have a sense of freedom and power to do. But whether we like it or not there’s a limit of what we can do considering our frailty and vulnerabilities. It’s the grace of God that helps us step up and go beyond these limits in order to be selfless, and learn the virtues for the kingdom of God.
The prophet Isaiah (5:1-7) in the first reading speaks of God as a friend who takes care of his vineyard, does whatever he can to make it bear good fruits. “He spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed a wine press.” This is an image of a loving God wanting us to know that he is concerned of our fruitfulness. He instils in our hearts the capacity for love, not only of others but for loving him too. We find in the the story, however, the consequences of rejecting the friendship of God. “Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes.” Instead of responding to God’s love in gratitude, what the prophet Isaiah described was acts of injustices. “He looked for judgment but see, bloodshed! For justice, but hark, the outcry!”
Saint Paul in his letter to the Philippians (4:6-9) reminded the Christians, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, loved and forgiven, to bear fruits of this gift in living a virtuous life. He told them to direct their thoughts to all that is true, respectable, honest, pure, admirable or worthy of praise. He himself strived to live what he proclaimed to them, assuring them of the gift of peace. These are the fruits of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the lives of Christians. It is also being open to the indwelling of the Spirit so that we can be intimately connected to God and bear good fruits which manifests his working in our midst. So St. Paul exhorts to dismiss the anxiety that keeps us away from trusting in God, but rather to present our needs to him in prayer, in petitions full of gratitude.
Gratitude is also at the heart of our relationship with God. We find in our Gospel parable, however, the contrary of it which is greed and selfishness. It is the story a property owner (God himself) who entrusts his vineyard to tenant farmers and expects to receive a share of grapes at vintage time. Yet, rather than giving the share, they wanted to possess everything to the point of killing his son. Jesus refers this parable to himself, “With that they seized him, dragged him outside the vineyard, and killed him.” This is plainly rebellion, and greed made them disrespectful and eventually reject God. Jesus then warns, “For this reason, I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will yield a rich harvest.”
God’s love story has ultimately been revealed in the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. It has become a gift that when accepted turns to be the source of grace and blessing in life. It is Jesus who gives himself for our salvation that makes us fruitful in our service for God and others. The saints and martyrs are witnesses to this in the world. They have shown that uniting themselves in Jesus had truly led them into generous self-giving. In the Holy Eucharist we unite ourselves to him when we receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Let us reflect then what it means to have Jesus in us. “We have to become what we eat.” May we allow the grace of God’s gift of himself truly bear good fruits in our life’s journey.