9:30 PM, Saturday
Mr and Mrs Udoma’s residence:
Mr Udoma: That was very delicious meal to celebration the qualification of our national team. Thanks honey.
Mrs Udoma: You are welcome my love.
Mr: Let’s look at tomorrow’s readings in preparation for night prayer.
Mrs: Alright honey. It says here that the first reading is from the prophecy of Isaiah, the Psalm is Psalm 80, the second is from Paul to the Philippians and the Gospel is from Matthew.
After reading the passage:
Mrs: Why does scripture use the vine as a symbol in today’s readings?
Mr: The vine is a very important plant in Israel. It provides grapes which are sweet and succulent fruits in the heat of summer. In winter, when it is as dry as raisin, it is a sweet treat when other fruits are generally unavailable. When its juice is extracted in the wine-press, it provides sweet wine which is a major source of relaxation and merriment. They one who owns a vineyard owns a prize possession. This is why God used this as a symbol of his love for Israel. Just as Israelites love and care for their vineyard, so God loves and cares for us.
Mrs: What is the significance of the hedges, the wine-press and the tower we read about?
Mr: The hedge is meant to represent divine protection from God the creator who cares for us. The wine press and the tower signify the fact that God has given us all we need to cultivate and bring forth the desired fruits as good works for ourselves and others.
Mrs: People say they have gifts and talents but their problem is how to cultivate them. How does a person cultivate these gifts which God has given to us?
Mr: Saint Paul helps us here with useful habits when he says, ‘Pray for what you need, guard your heart and thoughts, fill your minds with thoughts of truth, nobility (set standards for yourself), seek goodness (flee from evil and don’t wish it for others), desire purity (in mind and body), love (for God, self and others, whether they deserve it or not), and show honour (mutual respect).
Mrs: Everywhere you go, you meet selfish people and persons who do not desire your good. In those cases, it is difficult to be good.
Mr: I admit it is difficult but it is not impossible. I think the focus should be on desiring goodness and making it a habit for oneself and not simply to please others.
Mrs: I think so too. If one is at peace and comfortable in their skin, goodness becomes second nature and we only desire to show kindness even when others do not ask us for it or even expect it.
Mr: Deuteronomy 6:4-7 makes this point by asking us to love God with all our heart, soul and might. When we truly love God, loving others becomes easier.
Mrs: I couldn’t help but notice how our national team always pray before the match begins and during the half time and you said, ‘we pray so much in this country but we are still very corrupt.’
Mr: But it’s true. We pray a lot but it doesn’t reflect in our lives. True communication with God is like detergent; it should purge us of our selfishness and fill us with love and concern for others.
Mrs: I think what you said can be linked to the message of today’s readings. Just as every vineyard owner expects fruits from their vine, so too God expects us to bear sweet fruits. Saint Paul gives us a list of the kind of fruits we should bear in his letter to the Galatians (5:22-23): Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness (Chastity), Humility and Self-control.
Mr: That’s very beautiful. What should be our general attitude to ourselves, people and things?
Mrs: St Paul says something too in this regard, ‘live temperately and justly and piously in this world; looking for the blessed hope and glorious coming of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ’ (Tit 2:12).
Mr: It sounds very much like what the priest says after the congregation must have said the ‘Our Father’: “Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.’
Mrs: That’s true o. So much of scripture is referred to at Mass. The other day I was reading a passage and realised that the greeting of the priest at the beginning of Mass is from St Paul, ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you’ (2Cor 13:14).
Mr: Later, they will say, ‘you Catholics don’t read the Bible’.
Mrs: We probably take the Bible lightly because we are soaked in it.
Mr: Soaked, that’s the word.
Mrs: So do you think is the central message of this Sunday’s readings?
Mr: God expects us to bear good fruits, as human beings, as Catholics, as clergy, religious or lay persons. We must bear fruit or the blessings of God will go to someone else.
Mrs: God forbid o.
Mr: Amen o. Let us pray.
Almighty Father, thank you for the many gifts with which you have made us truly beautiful as your children. Help us to bear good fruits that will develop our home, our great nation and our world. Amen.
Isa 5:1-7; Ps 80:9,12-20; Philp 4:6-9; Mt 21:33-43