HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
Today the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel employ the image of the Lord’s vineyard. The Lord’s vineyard is his “dream”, the plan which he nurtures with all his love, like a farmer who cares for his vineyard. Vines are plants which need much care!
God’s “dream” is his people. He planted it and nurtured it with patient and faithful love, so that it can become a holy people, a people which brings forth abundant fruits of justice.
But in both the ancient prophecy and in Jesus’ parable, God’s dream is thwarted. Isaiah says that the vine which he so loved and nurtured has yielded “wild grapes” (5:2, 4); God “expected justice but saw bloodshed, righteousness, but only a cry of distress” (v. 7). In the Gospel, it is the farmers themselves who ruin the Lord’s plan: they fail to do their job but think only of their own interests.
In Jesus’ parable, he is addressing the chief priests and the elders of the people, in other words the “experts”, the managers. To them in a particular way God entrusted his “dream”, his people, for them to nurture, tend and protect from the animals of the field. This is the job of leaders: to nurture the vineyard with freedom, creativity and hard work.
But Jesus tells us that those farmers took over the vineyard. Out of greed and pride they want to do with it as they will, and so they prevent God from realizing his dream for the people he has chosen.
The temptation to greed is ever present. We encounter it also in the great prophecy of Ezekiel on the shepherds (cf. chapter 34), which Saint Augustine commented upon in one his celebrated sermons which we have just reread in the Liturgy of the Hours. Greed for money and power. And to satisfy this greed, evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move (cf. Matthew 23:4)
We too, in the Synod of Bishops, are called to work for the Lord’s vineyard. Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent… They are meant to better nurture and tend the Lord’s vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people. In this case the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity.
We are all sinners and can also be tempted to “take over” the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings. God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants. We can “thwart” God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity.
My Synod brothers, to do a good job of nurturing and tending the vineyard, our hearts and our minds must be kept in Jesus Christ by “the peace of God which passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). In this way our thoughts and plans will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 21:43).
Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,
This morning, with the Eucharistic celebration in St Peter’s Basilica, we inaugurated the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. The Synod Fathers, who have come from every part of the world, will experience together with me two intense weeks of listening and discussion, made fruitful by prayer, on the theme “Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization”.
Today the Word of God presents the image of a vineyard as a symbol of the Lord’s Chosen People. Like a grapevine, the people require great care, they require patient and devoted love. This is what God does with us, and this is what we Pastors are called to do. Taking care of the family is also a way of working in the Lord’s vineyard, in order that it may produce the fruits of the Kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 21:33-43).
But in order that the family walk well, with trust and hope, it must be nourished with the Word of God. For this reason it is a happy coincidence that precisely today our Pauline brothers and sisters wish to distribute a large number of Bibles, here in the Square and in many other places. Let us thank our Pauline brothers and sisters! They are doing so on the occasion of the Centenary of their foundation by Blessed Giacomo Alberione, a great apostle of communication. So today, as the Synod on the Family opens, with the help of the Paulines we can say: a Bible for every family! “But Father, we have two, three of them...”. But where have you hidden them?... The Bible, not to place it on a shelf, but to keep it at hand, to read it often, every day, both individually and together, husband and wife, parents and children, maybe in the evening, especially on Sundays. This way the family grows, walks, with the light and power of the Word of God!
This is the Bible that the Pauline brothers and sisters are giving you: one for every family. But be careful not to cheat: take it with one hand, not with two, with one hand to take it home!
I ask everyone to support the work of the Synod with prayer, invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary. At this time, we unite spiritually to those, in the Shrine of Pompeii, who are raising the traditional “Petition” to Our Lady of the Rosary. May peace be obtained, for families and for the entire world!
After the Angelus:
Dear brothers and sisters, yesterday in the United States, Sr Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, of the Sisters of Charity of St Elizabeth, was beatified. Let us give thanks to God for this faithful disciple of Christ, who lived a deeply spiritual life.
And now I cordially greet all of you, faithful Romans and pilgrims from Italy and various countries. In particular, I greet the students from Australia and those from the St Bonaventure Gymnasium in Dillengen, Germany, young people from Jordan, the St John de Matha Society and the faithful from St Paul’s Parish in Bergamo.
I greet all the pilgrims who have come by bicycle from Milan in memory of St Gianna Beretta Molla, a saintly mother of a family, witness of the Gospel of life, and I encourage them to continue their initiative of solidarity for the most vulnerable people.
Please do not forget: pray for the Synod, pray that Our Lady watch over this Synodal Assembly. I wish you all a happy Sunday. Pray for me. Have a good lunch. Arrivederci!
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Pope Francis I, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Dear Daddy God, we thank you for loving us. We are saddened by the News recently as many innocent and harmless people have become victims of wars and terrorists attacks happened at various parts of the World. Now they are jobless, homeless, without proper food and drinks. We are concerned for the many of them who have managed to escape from the atrocities of wars but now need to face the coming cold winter without electricity and heating system. Please help the related countries to settle their commercial / political disputes quickly so that resources could reach your poor children soon.
Dear Daddy God, we beg you to please perform your wonderful miracles again for us like the way you had fed the Israelites in the Wilderness; when you rained down food from heaven and gave them water from the Rock (cf. Exodus 16-17). You know that there are those who are very affluent but refuse to share to keep others alive. However, please bless the many generous people, who have shared their resources with the needy. But it seems that the needed resources are still insufficient; please help us to fill in the gap.
Now the World that we are living in seems worse than the desert experienced by the Israelites in the past. It’s ironical that in this 21st century, with our advancement in technology and culture, there are still people who could die of hunger and without proper care, living in conditions unworthy of human beings.
Dear Daddy God, we offer this petition to you with deep humility and beg for your mercy. Please help us to settle this mess that has been created. We repeat this prayer with our every heartbeat and with our every breath. Amen.
21 October 2014