Sunday Sermon for October 8. 2023, the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Is 5:1-7; Phil 4:6-9; Mt 21:33-43

In both the first reading and the Gospel reading today we hear about a landowner who planted a vineyard on his property.  He did everything right to ensure that choice grapes would be produced.  In the first example, the choice vines that were planted yielded wild grapes instead of choice grapes.  In the second example, the tenants refused to give the owner his share of the grapes.  In either case, the landowner failed to receive crop he was expecting.

It is clear in each of these parables that God is the landowner.  He has provided His people with everything they need to be able to go forth and produce great fruit.  The people to whom these parables are addressed are the Jewish people of old.  In the first reading God is going to allow the country of Israel to be trampled by its enemies.  In the Gospel parable, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God will be taken from the Jewish people and given to a people that will produce its fruit.

According to our Lord’s analogy, we have become the stones rejected by the builders, but are now being built into a Temple that is holy in the Lord.  With this in mind, we need to ask if we are producing the fruit God is seeking.  In the first reading, the Lord said He was looking for judgment and justice; instead, He found bloodshed and outcry.  What is He receiving from us? 

When we speak of judgment, God is not looking for us to be running around judging the motives of others.  What it means is that He wants us to judge according to His standards so that we can reject sin and choose what is right.  The concept of justice is similar: He wants us to do what is right toward God and toward neighbor.  When we look around the world today, we notice a lot of sin, which means we are failing in judgment.  These sins are the result of selfishness, which means we are failing in justice.

A way of life marked by sin and selfishness will most often lead to a loss of interior peace.  This is due to the fact that we are not living in the way we were created to live; we have taken our focus off of God and put it on ourselves.  Remember that in hell, the people are so miserable because they are looking at themselves.  They were made to be united with God, but they chose themselves over Him.  For the rest of eternity they will be stuck with themselves, which means there is no hope, no peace, no joy, no fulfillment.  Instead, there is only despair and emptiness.

St. Paul provides the remedy for this.  It is what we have already seen regarding judgment and justice, but he expands on this to give us more detail.  First, he says that we need to make our prayers and petitions to God with thanksgiving.  This puts our focus back on God.  All too often our prayer is focused on ourselves; that is, it is only about what we want.  When everything is done with thanksgiving, it acknowledges that all we have comes from God and the prayer is made, not in a selfish and demanding way, but in a way that is humble and dependent.

Second, St. Paul says that we should think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent, and praiseworthy.  In the first point (prayer and petition with thanksgiving), St. Paul says the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ.  Regarding the list just mentioned, St. Paul says if we think about these kinds of things, the God of peace will be with us.  If we do this, we will not be troubled with anxiety about anything because our focus is on the Lord in Whom we trust.

Also, if our minds and hearts are occupied with the things of God, we will produce the fruit He seeks from us.  If we are intent on considering what is good, true, and beautiful, then we will be drawn to prayer which will bring peace into our hearts.  Prayer will conform us more and more to Christ which will result in our acting more like Him.  God will be with us then because we will be united with Him in our prayer and in our way of life.

So, whether we want to see ourselves as the choice vines, the tenants in God’s vineyard, or the stones the builders rejected but God has chosen, we are called and chosen to bear fruit in holiness.  So, be grateful, fill your mind with truth, beauty, and goodness, and pray so that united with the God of peace, the peace of God will be in you!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit