Help me to remain
Let me now sing of my friend, my friend’s song concerning his vineyard. My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes.
Today’s readings from Isaiah and from the gospel are cautionary. We need to take heed of their many lessons, but most especially the need to remain faithful to God’s call to live His way of life, to become more and more like Him, and to bear good fruit.
Both Isaiah and the gospel use analogy and parable to show what God had done for Israel. They also show that rejecting faithfulness will never lead to triumph.
The vineyard, hedge, wall, tower, and winepress represent God’s work at building Israel. He brought it all it needed to be beautiful, sweet, and successful. He protected it by His strong arm. He gave it kings to lead it, and prophets to reform it. He looked for its people to live real, genuine, and pious lives filled with virtue, godliness and righteousness.
Jesus makes plain that the landowner, that is God, in His care for us does not require any works on our part to come to faithfulness. He does all the work (plants, hedges, digs, and builds) so that we might freely give ourselves over to Him in an act of faith. He wants us to take up His work in the world and asks us to commit to it. If we live faithfully, we will build upon what Jesus has taught. He will be the true cornerstone for our lives.
The importance of faithfulness is made clear by the absence of that faithfulness in Israel despite God continued call and presence. God’s first chosen refused to be faithful. They brought forth “wild grapes.” This doesn’t just mean sour grapes – but grapes that are poisonous, offensive, noxious, and deadly. A life without faithfulness is empty and spiritually dead.
So, we see the two extremes. One is total faithlessness, the other faithfulness. We know that our life is a mix of the two. We fall from time to time in sin. The key aspect is that we recognize what Jesus calls us to do. When we loose our faithfulness, we must re-recognize His generosity towards us. We must recall that God never abandons us, but rather continuously offers us another chance. As God did for Israel He does for us. He calls us back, to recognize His faithfulness towards us. He helps us, by His grace to be faithful. Will we live real, genuine, and pious lives filled with virtue, godliness and righteousness, or will we reject Him completely and end up spiritually dead?
We must continue to work at our faithfulness, to recall our commitment to Him.