“..what could I have done for my vineyard that I have not done? I expected it to yield grapes..why did it yield sour grapes instead ?..” the tears & disappointment of a beloved friend of ours who chose this little parish of all parishes in Christendom to plant his choicest vine..confident, excitedly expectant that we would produce finest flavoured vintage 2017.. “..not I Lord surely?..not us Lord surely?..”
“..let me sing to my friend the song of his love for his vineyard..” ; Lord have mercy “..but sour grapes are all that it gave..” ; Christ have mercy “..he expected justice but found bloodshed..integrity but a cry of distress..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..last Sat evg, as our Vigil Mass began here, I was sitting in Belfast City airport awaiting my flight to Manchester & then train after my awayday at Faith & Life Convention with Down & Connor Diocese, & my two workshops on Benedictine Spirituality..& at 6pm instead of reading DT I began to shape this homily, continuing on flight & on train..you & I ever connected..remember it was Matthew, a Jew writing for Jews; for insiders; Gods gift to religion who’d seen it all before..not going to be moved out of their comfort zone by yet another ordinary story nor ordinary homily..another ordinary Sat/Sun Mass; they’d heard it all before..so Matthew ratches up imagery, real fire & brimstone account of a disappointed landowner, an absentee landlord..living in a tax haven, he sent his heavies to collect produce..& reaction of tenant farmers, too long exploited like Rohingya Muslims, was to revolt..& instead of ethnic cleansing as in Mynamar, he sent his Son “they will respect my son” & what emerged at last Sats Convention from a Cardinal an Archbishop & two Bishops was that “God is stupid” only a stupid God would be so loving as to risk losing his own Son “my ways are not your ways; it is the Lord who speaks”..indeed..& rest of story is premonition of Passion & Death of Jesus Christ..”& when the owner of vineyard comes what will he do to those tenants?..he will bring those wretches to a wretched end, & lease vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him”.. Matthews Jesus clear & fair; ruthless & dismissive of failure & realistic in offering others an opportunity the chosen ones had squandered..very Matthew but a justice the real Jesus & Pope Francis would have no time for..Jesus forgives, he cancels all debts misuse & embezzlement, even ethnic cleansing, if he senses a glimmer of genuine remorse..the keystone is the mis-shapen stone..one we’d discard..dislike in its texture & appearance, questioning its ability to last, to withstand a harsh winter..at our Harvest Service in St Benedicts PS on Friday I spoke of College students dislike of apples..surrounded by them over 50 varieties deliciously different..all they do with them is throw them at each other.. educated at home to expect Waitrose grade 1 golden delicious, each perfectly shaped, no dimples, no skin imperfections & certainly no bruises..rather like person in this vineyard, faith community,we treat with suspicion..”my ways are not your ways; it is the Lord who speaks”..indeed..”the stone [apple] rejected by the builders became the keystone; this was the Lords doing, & it is wonderful to see” ..here & now in this privileged blessed chosen vineyard..”it is wonderful to see” can you see it?..do you want to see it?..do you want to face consequences, the music the song of our best friend, our very best friend for us, for you & I, his beloved..do you want Matthews realistic understandably clear dismissive judgemental prejudicial ending?..”I tell you that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you” you disciples of the golden delicious..or do you prefer Jesus’ russet, almost too hard to believe but generously loving, be it a 2nd or 102nd chance..if only we could come to realise & believe how precious we are in our over 50 varieties in Catholicism, & how he aches for our self awareness our self realisation of that special relationship, never to be taken away from us..unconditional unmerited redemption "I chose you from the world to go out & bear fruit, fruit that will last” there is no room in this parish vineyard, this orchard, for sour grapes..& so ended my train journey & my homily..until on Monday I received notification that this weekend is Prisoners Sunday..DSP for prisoners, their families & all who work in Prison Service, in their vineyard..in 1st rdg HMP Strangeways which my train passed “my friend had a vineyard on fertile hillside..dug soil, cleared it of stones, planted choice vines in it..built a tower hedged & fenced it; expected it to yield grapes..& sour grapes were all it gave”..bad apples of society, rejects for their crimes; bruisers miscreants criminals 50 varieties.. & are we any different “let he who has not sinned be first to cast a stone” or an apple..”my ways are not your ways; it is the Lord who speaks”..the making & the saving of us is in the way we relate to the prisoner..bad apple & the sour..& therein meet taste & serve Christ himself.. [27thSunYrAMt21;33-43]