Twenty-Seventh Sunday of the Year. fr Malcolm McMahon helps us to see how physical signs can make God present to us.
This Sunday, the first in the month of October, in Dominican churches was celebrated as Rosary Sunday until the calendar was reformed in the 1960s. So now we celebrate the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time. No matter how we try to explain this change I think something has been lost in the transition.
On Rosary Sunday, roses were blessed at Mass and then distributed to the people with the charge to take them home. The prayer of blessing says that God has given these roses so that we may enjoy their pleasing fragrance and that the sick persons to whom they are brought may be healed of their infirmities. There is something very tangible about a rose, especially if a thorn pricks your finger; and their scent can invade our senses in an uplifting and spiritual way. There is no doubt that natural symbols like the blessed rose give us a very strong hint of God’s unfailing love for whether we are sick or healthy. That is easy to grasp when we are ill but the problem for us when we are healthy is that we don’t always realise how much we need God’s love and mercy. In today’s Gospel the tenants of the vineyard become consumed with their own well being and power and they chose to forget that the vineyard is not theirs, but is the property of the landlord. They even go to the extent of seizing the landlord’s son and killing him.
This parable rather obviously alludes to the way in which God’s son, Jesus, was rejected and died for us on the cross. Nowadays it is very easy for us to forget that we are dependent on God for every moment of our life. The truth is that it is God’s love and mercy for each of us individually that sustains us in our being. We tend to ignore this purposely or simply forget this fact as the cares of life overtake us. But there are times in our lives when we are pulled up in our tracks, and realise just how much we rely on God. Many people suffer these shocks and surprises more than once in their lives. It could be the death of someone very close to us, or being made redundant from work. On the other hand it could be something joyous such as the experience of a pilgrimage or a golden wedding anniversary. At these key points in our life on earth we realise deeply that God is holding us in the palm of his hand. But that moment of clarity usually comes to us in a physical or natural means. So I come back to the blessed rose.
The simple and fragrant rose so redolent of the power of God’s love for us can help us stay in touch with God. In a small way this gift from God can help us open our minds and hearts to the divine gift of the Son of God. The best way to find the Son is to get amongst the places where he is to be found, that is amongst the poor and marginalised, and especially amongst those who have forgotten that the created world in which we live belongs to God, and not to the human race. The prick of a rose thorn may wake us up to this fact, just as its fragrance reminds us that it is God, and God alone, who heals us and lifts us up.
Readings: Isaiah 5:1-7|Philippians 4:6-9|Matthew 21:33-43