For the last couple of weeks, we have been reading parables about vineyards. Here is Wisconsin we do not exactly have an abundance of vineyards so you may not know how grapes are grown. I think I have a plant that is kind of similar in some ways. Tomatoes. Yes, tomatoes. My Mom would always get about 24 sets to start and we would plant them and carefully nurture them. We would get tomato juice, canned tomatoes, and whatever else comes from tomatoes. What I noticed though was that if the vine of the tomato was on the ground you could cover that small portion with dirt and the vine coming out the other side of the dirt would start another plant. Soon the original 24 sets would be like 100, or so it seemed to me.
Grapes are somewhat similar. Grapes normally grow wild. And wild grapes are terribly bitter and sour. Once I had the opportunity to visit some vineyards in Napa Valley. There I learned that to have good grapes you would have to taste test the grapes. If your grapes were sour and bitter, then you would trim them off and burn them. But if the grapes were sweet and bigger you would allow part of that vine to grow. You would cut off portions of the good vine in two-foot sections. These sections you would stick in the ground in nice straight rows. Now the work begins. You have to water them every day. And with diligence in a couple of years you would have grapes. Then you continue repeating the taste testing process to allow your vineyard to grow and keep producing even better tasting grapes.
The landowner in the first reading is God. He took the good vine out of Egypt and planted it in Israel. He placed the care of the vineyard in the hands of the religious leaders. And they mismanaged the grape vines. They allowed the bitter grapes to take over the vineyard. Now God will allow that vineyard to be torn down and destroyed and the people sent into exile.
In the gospel we hear a repeat of the vineyard story, but now the landowner has left the care of the vineyard again in the hands of the religious. When the landowner comes to collect his share of the produce, the religious leaders kill the people the landowner sent. They even kill his son. So, what is to happen to these religious leaders? They will be killed too.
This month is Right to Life month. Right to Life means more than eliminating abortion. It means more than allowing assisted suicide at the end of life. It means eliminating the Culture of Death. St Pope John Paul II spoke of the culture of death. What is it? When we use death to solve our problems. Look at movies on Netflix or wherever you watch. The action movies are always the same thing. The good guy gets beat up. The good guy gets better and then avenges himself. How, by killing the bad guys. Watch the cartoons your children or grandchildren watch. The bad guys always go splat on the screen and everyone knows they are dead. Problem solved; bad guys dead. Remember the phrases, “Shoot first, ask questions second.” Or how about, “Dead men don’t talk.” The culture of death is prevalent in all parts of our society. Oh, but that will not happen around here, right? No one would walk into someone’s bedroom and shoot them while they were sleeping, right?
There is also assignation of character. We can assassinate someone with our gossip, making rumors or telling lies. We can destroy the future of others by the words we use. This type of killing is just as deadly as using a gun or a knife. There is always one thing to remember when we kill someone. They have family. And in our culture, we believe in getting even. And so the cycle continues. They will avenge themselves. Perhaps not on you but on your children or grandchildren. In every situation there really are only two choices. To do the right thing or do the wrong thing. The right thing is what Jesus teaches us. Humble ourselves. Be willing to take up your cross. Learn to die to self so that you will live. If you live for yourself, you will surely die. Ask yourself, what was your reaction when you heard Trump had the virus? I hope you all said a prayer for him. It does not matter what party you are for, because this the president. A Catholic would never wish something bad on another person. More than ever our country needs people praying. I suggest we all do a novena of rosaries for the next 30 days for our country.
May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen