When our Church had to be closed last March because of the Covid-19 Virus, Sr Liza and I quickly realised that we would have to reach out to our Community in a different way. People still needed to be nourished by the words of Scripture, which they could no longer hear in Church. And so Sr Liza took up her pen, and week by week for all this time for all this time, she has published, on our website, helpful – thoughtful – and prayerful articles about the Sunday Gospel passage.
Many, many, of you have written in to say how beautiful, and enjoyable these words were and how much they looked forward to them each Sunday. And I just wanted to express our sincere thanks to Sister for ‘filling the gap’ in the absence of Mass … There are some who hope that she will continue to write her thoughts on the Scriptures on our Website – but that’s for your new PP to decide!
For the last three Sundays, Jesus has been teaching the people using stories about everyday life in the Vineyards – and how it could bring out the best in people, and sometimes the worst … Let me just look at one paragraph in today’s Gospel passage … It tells us how A man takes great care with his plot of land, he plants a vineyard … he erects a fence … he builds a tower and digs a winepress … He has thought of everything. Now he must travel abroad, o he hires men who will know how to tend his vineyard in his absence. We might imagine that all went really well and that the hired men did a good job in tending the vines, so that they produced a really good harvest.
It’s an image of the Church, isn’t it? When Sr Liza and I were moved from Heston to this parish of St Ignatius, the Bishop at that time sent us a card in which he had written ‘welcome to this new area of the Lord’s Vineyard’. Sr Liza and I were remembering this as we read today’s Gospel.
Well, for almost fifteen years we have enjoyed this ‘new area of the Lord’s Vineyard’, here in Sunday… We have welcomed new young plants through Baptism. We have nurtured plants which had grown their first branches through Holy Communion and erected fences to keep children safe through the Sacrament of Reconciliation … In Confirming their Faith, we have encouraged plants through difficult and turbulent teenage years when there is a sudden spurt of growth … We have helped to unite plants that have become entwined, one with another in Marriage … We have pruned at the right time … We have fed and watered week by week in Masses … At times of the year when new growth is expected in the Lord’s Vineyard, we have offered Reconciliation and Penitential Services … When a vine in the Lord’s vineyard has exhausted itself and there is no possibility of any further fruitful years, we have gently laid them to rest …
The Keeper of a Vineyard is always sad when he gently uproots a vine and lays it to one side; he hopes even now for it to bring forth new life, and it does not disappoint as it moves into eternal, everlasting life with the Lord, in Heaven. In all these ways we hope to have cared for ‘this area of the Lord’s Vineyard’. Sr Liza and I have but one hope : that you all feel that you have grown spiritually, grown in Faith, and confidence over these past 15 years … And now it is time to pray that God who began this good work in you will bring it surely to fruition, on the last day. Amen