Thursday, October 2, 2008

Producing the Fruit of the Kingdom--Sunday, October 5, 2008 Year A

October 5, 2008, Year A

Twenty-Seventh Sunday In Ordinary Time

Respect Life Sunday

Reflection on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme: Producing the Fruit of the Kingdom

In every seed of faith lives the mystery of our redemption.

Jesus gives us a picture of the kingdom in the parable of the vineyard. Every landowner who plants a vineyard does so with the expectation of a harvest of grapes. A winepress is installed nearby to facilitate the creation of wine. Such an agricultural enterprise was commonplace in the area of Palestine. Jesus uses this occasion to again emphasize to the chief priests and elders of the people that he will reveal the power of his kingdom to those who produce the fruit of the kingdom.  Vintage time in the vineyard fills the air with the sweet aroma of grapes ready for harvest and wine making. The vintage of the kingdom fills the air with the sweet aroma of Christ. 

Through us the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ is spread everywhere. Our faith calls and enables us to release the life giving fragrance of Christ into a culture consumed with the stench of the wages of sin: death.

St. Paul, in todays second reading, instructs us to reject anxiety and, by prayer, petition and thanksgiving, make our requests known to God. In troublesome times it is difficult to lift our hearts up to the Lord. The foul odor of sin wafts over our souls like an unending nightmare.  However, in everything, through everything, in spite of everything, lift your heart up to the Lord. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  

Let your soul encounter the sweet breezes of the Holy Spirit. The wind of the Spirit blows from a place where moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves cannot break in and steal.And it brings the aroma of a heavenly vintage: the blessed intoxication of the Spirit that inspires without inebriating.

The kingdom that Jesus gives is a vintage of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. St. Paul echoes the same as he outlines what our hearts should muse about. "If it is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent and worthy of praise, then think on these things," says Paul. The true aroma and fruit of the kingdom resides in these special attributes listed by St. Paul. So, for the sake of understanding the true nature and purpose of the vineyard kingdom let's try a little interior examination.

Today is Respect Life Sunday. Yet we live in a world where life and human dignity is anything but respected.  There is a noticeable absence of the fragrance of Christ.

Our world is full of violence. There is violence in the womb, violence in the streets, violence overseas; violence infects our hearts, our words and our attitudes toward our fellow humans.  

Our world is full of vengeance.  Courtrooms abandon justice in favor of vengeance, filling death row and crowding prisons to the breaking point.  Vengeance is the motivation behind holocausts, massacres, and tribal warfare.  Divorce and child custody are more about vengeance than equity.  Vengeance is a two-edged sword waiting within our hearts to strike the killing blow.   

Our world is overflowing with violations – violations of trust,  broken vows, ill-kept oaths, and betrayal of goodwill. Lies are the currency of politics. And Machiavellian attempts to get ahead are business as usual in the cubicle jungle of our workaday lives. Friendships, marriages and, yes, even, parishes come to ruin in the name of the violation of human dignity and vainglorious self addiction. How many times have we violated our sacred duty to respect the dignity of all people, whether friend or foe, as we tear others down in the harbor of our hearts?

Can a world of violence, vengeance and violations simultaneously be just, pure, lovely, gracious and worthy of praise?  Those who love this present world do not think about those things St. Paul says we should think about.  They revel in what they can get away with and in how close to the fire they can live without getting burned. This is a ploy of Satan to keep the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve from once again breathing the cool evening air of Eden's ancient wind. 

Dear ones, it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. But Jesus makes it clear that the kingdom is given on his terms, not ours. We shouldn't be conformed to the spirit of this age, but transformed by the renewing of our minds.  This is only possible when, by faith, we desire to produce the fruit of another kingdom; and let the fragrance of that heavenly fruit fill us.  

In every one of us is a measure of faith. And in that deposit of faith lives the mystery of our redemption and the redemption of the whole world. It is a kingdom that is not of this world as our Lord clearly taught. In the Church resides this kingdom.  The vintage of this kingdom is the sweet aroma of Christ.

The vineyard has been planted to change us, to change the world. And a seed, a small part of the vineyard kingdom, lives in each and every one of us. Today the Master of this vineyard desires that we bear much fruit.  

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, allow the fragrance of your eternal kingdom to fill my heart, my thoughts, my deeds. May the sweet aroma of your presence permeate all that I do, all that I am. Anything less is the stench of selfishness and vainglory.  Amen

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