Sunday, October 05, 2014

"God's Dream"... And The "Greed" That Would "Seize" It – For the Synod, The Opening Word

5 OCTOBER 2014

Today the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel employ the image of the vineyard of the Lord. The vineyard of the Lord is his "dream," the project that he's cultivated with all his love, like a farmer cares for his field. Vines are plants that require a lot of care!

The "dream" of God is his people: he's planted and cultivated it with patient and faithful love, that it might become a holy people, a people who might bring forth many good fruits of justice.

But whether in the ancient prophecies or the parables of Jesus, God's dream becomes frustrated. Isaiah says that the vineyard, much loved and cared for, "has produced immature fruit" (5:2,4), while God "expected justice but here finds bloodshed, awaited rectitude yet here the cry of oppression" (7). In the Gospel, meanwhile, it's the farmers who ruin the Lord's project: they don't do their work, but think of their own interests.

Jesus, with his parable, addresses the chief priests and elders of the people, they being the "wise ones," the ruling class. To these in a particular way God has entrusted his "dream," his people, that they might cultivate it, care for it, keep it from wild animals. This is the charge of the leaders of the people: to cultivate the vineyard with freedom, creativity and hard work.

Jesus says that, however, those farmers had seized upon the land; for their own greed and pride they want to make of it what they want, and remove God from the possibilities of realizing his dream for the people he has chosen.

The temptation of greed is always present. We likewise find it in the great prophecy of Ezekiel on the shepherds (cf. Ch. 34), on which St Augustine remarked in his celebrated discourse which we recently took up in the Liturgy of the Hours. A greed of money and of power. And to sate this greed the evil shepherds load on the shoulders of the people insupportable burdens that they themselves don't lift a finger to move (Mt 23:4).

We too, in the Synod of Bishops, are called to work for the vineyard of the Lord. The Synodal assemblies don't serve to discuss beautiful or original ideas, or to see who's the most intelligent one... They serve to care for and maintain better the Lord's vineyard, to cooperate in his dream, in his project of love for his people. In this case, the Lord asks us to take on ourselves the care of the family, which from its origins is an integral part of his design of love for humanity.

We are all sinners, eh?, and for us too there can be the temptation of "seizing upon" the vineyard, born of the greed that's never lacking in us humans. The dream of God always clashes with the hypocrisy of some among his servants. We can "frustrate" the dream of God if we don't let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us the wisdom that is apart from science, to work generously with true freedom and humble creativity.

Brothers of the Synod, to care for and guard well the vineyard, we need for our hearts and minds to be guarded in Christ Jesus, from whom comes "peace from God which is beyond all understanding" (Phil 4:7). So will our thoughts and our projects be conformed to the dream of God: to form a holy people that belongs to him and produces the fruits of the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt 21:43).

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[Ed. Note: house translation – all citations in text shown as given by the Holy See; links added for convenience. In addition, today's reprise reference to the "ruling class" directly ties the preach above to Francis' Friday homily at the Domus, which rightly raised no shortage of eyebrows (and, to be sure, many blood pressures) given the current context.]