Let me now sing of my friend, my friend's son concerning his vineyard. My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes. Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done? Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? Now, I will let you know what I mean to do with my vineyard: take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled! Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed, but overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds not to send rain upon it.
The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are His cherished plant; He looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! For justice, but hark, the outcry!(P) The word of the Lord.
A vine from Egypt you transplanted; you drown away the nations and planted it. It put forth its foliage to the Sea, its shoots as far as the River. (R)
Why have you broken down its walls, so that every passer-by plucks its fruit, the boar from the forest lays it waste, and the beasts of the field feed upon it? (R)
Once again, O Lord of hosts, look down from heaven, and see; take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted, the son of man whom you yourself made strong. (R)
Then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name. O Lord, God of hosts, restore us; if your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved. (R)
Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: "Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to the tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and the third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way.
"Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, "They will respect my son." But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, "This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance." They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?" They answered him, "He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times." Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?"
"Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
For several years a woman had been having trouble getting a good night's sleep because she was afraid of burglars. One night her husband heard a noise in the house, so he went downstairs to investigate. When he got there, he did find a burglar. "Good morning," said the husband. "I am pleased to see you. Come upstairs and meet my wife. She has been waiting for ten years to meet you."
It is human nature to worry or to be anxious at times. What is worry? Worry means to be disturbed or preoccupied with cares and anxieties. There are many things which we are anxious about in life. Our worries are different because we are really anxious only for people and things we care about. Sometimes worrying can prevent bad things from happening. However, excessive worrying can kill our appetite, make us sick, ruin our relationships and steal our peace. The amazing thing about worry, and we know this from experience, is that only a few of the things we worry about ever happen. A study regarding worry reveals that forty percent of things we worry about never happen; thirty percent of what we worry about has already happened and cannot be changed; twenty two percent of what we worry about is beyond our control; only eight percent of what we worry about is in our control. So while it seems to be useful in some way it is very destructive to our mind, body, spirit and relationships. Early Christians were no exception. So Saint Paul had to advise them on it. Let us discern, first, the circumstances surrounding this piece of advice from Paul.
During his imprisonment in Rome and other places, Paul is believed to have written four letters which are included in the New Testament of the Bible. They are letters to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. Today's second reading is taken from the letter he wrote to encourage the Christians at Philippi in Macedonia, who were full of worries. First of all, they were worried about everyday concerns such as health, relationships, children, money, jobs, security or the like. After they had become Christians they also began to worry about their citizenship and church. As Roman citizens, they were exempt from paying certain taxes and were not subject to the authority of the provincial governor but now they were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. Besides they were also worried about the wellbeing of Paul in prison and Epaphroditus, a member of the church who was sent with the supplies to visit Paul but became seriously ill and almost died while he was there.
Hence, Paul exhorted the Philippians not to allow individual hardships, trials, anxieties and fear to discourage them and to hinder their perseverance in faith. He wrote, "Have no anxiety at all, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God", Philippians (4:6). Paul did not simply tell the Philippians to stop worrying but suggested a remedy for anxiety - prayer. In any and every situation he asked them to bring their requests, their needs, their problems their anxieties to God in prayer and leave them, with gratitude, in His hands and be blessed with the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension. In addition to all that has been said already he said, "Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me." In other words, he encouraged them to think about good things and have noble thoughts, and then put these virtues into practice following the example of Paul himself so that they might experience the fullness of God's peace in Christ.
What is the message for us today? Friends, if anyone needed strength, courage and encouragement in the early church, it was Paul. From the time he was struck blind on the road to Damascus and then subsequently chose to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ he suffered very much. He was abandoned, beaten, stoned, flogged, exiled, imprisoned, shipwrecked, starved and finally beheaded. But he was selfless. He not only found joy and peace in his suffering but also prayed for others to be strengthened and encouraged them to think and do virtuous and noble things, so that they will also experience the presence of the God of peace forever.
We, living more than two thousand years later, are fortunate to read his encouraging words. Paul is not so much talking about being anxious, something which we cannot avoid in life but how we can deal with those moments when they come. He teaches us a fundamental truth about our Christian faith: No matter what our misfortune or difficulty, God reigns supreme and sovereign. He can - and will - see us through any adversity, persecution, affliction, hardship or disaster. If we pray in total submission and gratitude to God, and think and do what is true, noble, right, pure, gracious and honorable, God will richly bless us with pardon, grace, peace and eternal happiness.
What are the sort of things you worry about today and right now? Is it something of a major concern in your life or something small and insignificant? Do you exaggerate your worries and suffering? Do you attempt to take control of your life, relying only on your own wisdom and power or do you let God take control of your life and follow His guidance? Do you speak good, think good and do things that are true, just, righteous, gracious and praiseworthy? Let these questions and the words of Saint Paul ring in your ears as you face the situations that make you worry and anxious.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!