Harvest Time

This weekend, we turn the calendar page to the month of October and our parish fall celebration. I am personally looking forward to some great food, visiting with folks and watching Father Steven scout the grounds for ice cream! We have put in our request for a beautiful fall day to celebrate together as family.

A celebration of this magnitude only happens when people come together to dedicate themselves to making it a success. This year, we have a talented and hard-working group of volunteers who have joined with Anne O’Keefe, our community life coordinator, to turn our parish grounds into a festival theme. We gather to celebrate our wonderful parish family, and we welcome the many guests who will join us for a day filled with fun and festivities! I join Father Steven in thanking Anne and all who have worked so hard to bring about this great parish event. Please plan to spend some time after the 10 a.m. Mass enjoying the fruits of all their hard work.

Our readings today and last Sunday are rich with harvest themes. Jesus uses the image of the vineyard to talk about the Kingdom of God. It is certainly appropriate, during this fall season, that we think about gathering the harvest and preparing for the long winter ahead.

A couple of years ago, our family spent an afternoon at a local vineyard. We began with a little sampling of a wonderful, crisp, semi-sweet fall wine. From the tasting room, we headed outside for a tour of the vineyard. Our guide explained how the grapes that are crushed to make the wine have to be handled with extreme care. It takes a highly trained person to know which vines need to be pruned and where to cut them, so that they will produce the most fruit. There is a great deal of care that goes into cultivating vines that will produce grapes from which to make wine. This is a wonderful image of how our loving God prunes each of us, so that we will bear much fruit for the Kingdom!

The image of the vineyard is one that Jesus uses repeatedly to talk about the Kingdom. Each of us is called to labor in the vineyard. Some will labor as teachers, some as lectors, altar servers or sacristans. Some will labor with their hands, such as the dedicated group toiling to renovate the space that will soon house our adoration chapel. Regardless of our gifts, Jesus is calling each of us to labor in the Father’s vineyard. Just as the harvest master depends upon the labor of many hands to bring in the harvest, so too, does our Church rely upon the hands of many to do the work Christ has called us to do.

One of the pleasures of our household is a nice glass of red wine in the evening. As I swirl the wine in the glass, I first allow my sense of smell to pick up the subtle complexities of the wine. As the wine warms in the glass, a profile of flavors develops, so that the first sip of wine is often very different from the last sip in the glass. The wine changes character as it is exposed to the air and as it warms in the glass. The end product of the months of growing, the crushing of the grapes and the process of fermentation is the wonderful glass of wine that we enjoy. A good vintner knows how to get that perfect glass of wine by making subtle changes during the fermentation process.

During the consecration, the priest prays a beautiful prayer as the chalice, filled with wine, is elevated:

“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine to offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.”

In this prayer, we recognize the goodness of our loving God, who has given us the fruit of the vine. That fruit, taken by human hands, is then turned into the wine that is offered at Mass. The priest, acting in the person of Christ and through the action of the Holy Spirit, prays over the wine, that it will be transformed into the Blood of Christ.

This weekend, we celebrate the harvest. We celebrate the bounty of our lives, as we enjoy all sorts of wonderful food and drink, games and music. We celebrate the richness and variety of our gifts, all of us together, sharing what God has given us with each other. We celebrate what God has done, and what he continues to do in our lives. We admire the beauty of all that is around us, as we take time to be together as God’s family.

Fall is a good time for us to reflect on the harvest and on God’s abundant bounty in our lives. God is calling each of us to respond to his invitation to work in the vineyard. Some of us may be reluctant to step forward. Maybe I am thinking that my gift isn’t all that great, so I choose to keep it to myself. Maybe I am discerning what gifts God is calling me to share with the parish community. God will use the gift he has given us to help bring about a bountiful harvest. As we celebrate this weekend, let us be mindful of the call on each of our lives and the bounty of God’s generous response to the work of our hands.

God bless you!

Deacon Tim


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