Jesus Our Shepherd

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
02 October 2011

Homily
Rev. Donald Wright

Have you ever been disappointed in the results you have gotten after you have put your heart and soul into it? Maybe you really worked at a project like your garden or making a meal or designing and building a project and the results were very disappointing. Do any of you have examples you would like to share? How about a meal that turned into a flop? How about your children? We put our heart and soul into bringing them up and they control their own lives. Sometimes they make us happy and other times… With my 5 sons I’m sure you know there were times when… In dealing with people when you’ve done your best and the response is not positive or the people you’re dealing with don’t show appreciation I would define that as ingratitude.

Today’s scriptures tell us that from the standpoint of the writer, that same was and is true for God. In Isaiah we hear about a friend of God who put his heart and soul into developing, planting and nurturing a vineyard which should have produced good grapes but produced bitter grapes. In the story God was the friend, Israel was the vineyard and Judah the garden. The last line reflects God’s disappointment when it says, “I had hoped for honesty and justice, but dishonesty and cried for mercy were all I found. God had made the Jews his chosen people, given them the commandments and the prophets to guide them and they produced injustice, shedding the blood of innocents, and generated laws, laws and more laws. That for sure would be defined as ingratitude.

When Jesus put his heart and soul and as it turned out was willing to die in his effort to renew the Jewish faith and paid for his efforts his life, being as we heard in the Gospel reading, “The stone that the builders tossed aside” and “is now the most important stone of all.”(the cornerstone), and told the chief priests and leaders, “that God’s Kingdom will be taken from them and given to people who will do what he commands.” The God’s Kingdom he was talking about was the Jewish people being God’s chosen people, Israel, and now is given God’s Kingdom to the New Israel, those who follow his teachings, namely Christians. Where God gave the Jewish people the commandments and the prophets, God gave us all the Scripture, the old and the new, the sacraments, role models in the saints and The Church to lead us in living his teachings, his truths. In many ways the Church, just like the Jewish people has shown ingratitude, hardheartedness, and infidelity and has produced laws, laws and more laws. The Jewish faith has 613 laws and I would dare to say the Church has produced many times that.

Where do we go from here? What do we do to show true gratitude for all God has given us, that is the kind of gratitude which many of the people at the time of Isaiah and the chief priests and the leaders at the time of Jesus were unwilling to show? St. Paul has the answer for us and it is the same answer he gave to the Philippians when he told them, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. … Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile.” We all know that not worrying and not be anxious about anything is easier said than done but when we turn all our troubles over to God “God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you feel and think. What Paul is saying is a trueism you likely have heard may times, “Work like everything depends on you and pray like everything depends on God and trust Him.” And of course we know that everything does depend on God.

That way of living is a learned experience. The more we live that way the more we experience it working and the more peace we have. That is the way God wants us to live and the way we show God true gratitude for all he has given to each of us, the kind of gratitude which was lacking as the time of the prophet Isaiah and in the chief priests and leaders in Jesus’ time.