Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Homily at the Synod, part 4

"We come to the third element of today's readings. The Lord, in both the Old and New Testament, announced the judgment of the unfaithful vineyard. The judgment that Isaiah foresaw has been realized in the great wars and exiles imposed by the Assyrians and Babylonians. The judgment, announced by the Lord Jesus, refers above all to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70.

"But the threat of judgment affects us also, the Church in Europe, the Church of the West in general. With this Gospel the Lord also cries out in our ears the words he addressed in Revelation to the Church in Ephesus: "I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent" (2:5). The light can also be taken away from us, and we would do well to allow this warning in all its seriousness to resonate in our souls, crying out at the same time to the Lord: "Help us to be converted! Give us the grace of an authentic renewal! Do not permit the light to be extinguished among us! Reinforce our faith, our hope and our love so that we can bear good fruit!"

"At this point, a question arises: "But, is there not a promise, a word of consolation in today's reading and evangelical page? Is the threat the last word?" No! There is a promise and it is the last word, the essential one. We hear it in the alleluia verse, taken from John's Gospel: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit" (John 15:5).

"With these words of the Lord, John illustrates for us the last, the authentic end of the history of God's vineyard -- God does not fail. At the end, he triumphs -- love triumphs. There is already a veiled allusion to this in the parable of the vineyard proposed by today's Gospel and in its conclusive words. In it, the son's death is not the end of history, although it does not say so directly. But Jesus expresses this death through a new image taken from the Psalm: "The very stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone" (Matthew 21:42; Psalm 117:22).

"From the son's death life arises, a new building is made, a new vineyard. In Cana, he changed the water into wine, he transformed his blood into the wine of true love and in this way transforms the wine into his blood. In the Cenacle he anticipated his death and transformed in into the gift of himself, in an act of radical love. His blood is gift, it is love and for this reason it is the true wine that the creator was expecting. In this way, Christ himself became the vineyard and that vineyard always bears good fruit -- the presence of his love for us, which is indestructible.

"These words converge in the end in the mystery of the Eucharist, in which the Lord gives us the bread of life and the wine of his love and invites us to the feast of eternal love. We celebrate the Eucharist with the awareness that its price was the son's death, the sacrifice of his life, which remains present in it. Every time we eat this bread and drink this chalice, we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes, says St. Paul (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:26).

"But we also know that from this death life arises, as Jesus transformed it in a gesture of oblation, into an act of love, transforming it profoundly: Love has conquered death. In the holy Eucharist, from the cross he draws all men to himself (John 12:32) and he converts us into branches of the vine, which is himself. If we remain united to him, then we will also bear fruit, then we will no longer bear the vinegar of self-sufficiency, of the discontent of God and of his creation, but the good wine of God's joy and of love of neighbor.

"Let us pray to the Lord to grant us his grace so that in the three weeks of the synod that we are beginning not only will we say beautiful things about the Eucharist, but we will live from his strength. Let us pray for the gift through Mary, dear synodal fathers, whom I greet with affection, together with the different communities that you come from and that you here represent, so that being docile to the action of the Holy Spirit we might be able to help the world to be converted -- in Christ and with Christ -- into the fruitful vine of God. Amen."

--from Pope Benedict XVI's homily at the opening of the Synod on the Eucharist

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