Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Red, Rich, Juicy Tomatoes

This week Deacon Jonathan Sorensen has authored the reflection on the Sunday Scriptures for The Catholic Spirit. His reflection follows.


One of my favorite summer vegetables is the tomato. Red, rich, juicy — I can never get enough. But, anyone who has ever grown tomatoes probably has seen a tomato rot. Some kind of bacteria gets into a part of the tomato and begins to grow. A small, dark patch appears in one or more areas of the tomato and, left unchecked, it will continue to grow and produce a completely rotten tomato.

The way that I handle it is by cutting out the affected area before I eat it. But if I don’t get to it quickly enough, I must throw away the whole tomato.

Isaiah’s story of the vineyard that produced only rotten grapes was a parable reflecting his contemporary context. The prophet Isaiah (749-701 B.C.) preached in ancient Jeru­sa­lem during a tumultuous time in the ancient Near East. The Assyrian empire was growing quickly and was threatening the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. However, Isaiah saw that more than mere politics was at work in the growing danger.

Judah at that time was full of injustice. The rich were exploiting the poor to a greater extent than ever, even though the nation’s overall prosperity was increasing. The people of Judah had forgotten the two-fold nature of the commandments — love God and love your neighbor. Instead, they had replaced the practice of justice with rituals that they thought were enough to appease God.

But rituals were not enough. God demanded justice — that is, the fulfillment of his commandments. As a result, he sent his prophets to warn his people to change their ways, lest they be punished.

Isaiah’s warning was heard by the king of Judah, who instituted many reforms and thus saved the kingdom, for a time. The corruption of the people and later kings, however, was too much, and God allowed the kingdom to be destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.

Corruption destroys

Just as a bad spot on a tomato will eventually overtake the entire fruit and destroy it, so did the corruption of Israel and Judah bring about their eventual destruction. They were warn­ed constantly, but did not listen.

As Isaiah says, God’s vineyard was spaded, cleared of stones, planted with choicest vines and completely prepared for the harvest; yet it produced rotten fruit. Thus, it was given over to ruin.

Jesus tells us that we are to cut off from ourselves what causes us to sin, lest it culminate in our own destruction (Matthew 18:8-9).

How does the Lord speak to us today? How does he tend his vineyard — his people?

He instructs us through the sacred Scriptures, he teaches us through the moral teaching of the church and its bishops, and he speaks directly to our hearts through our consciences.

What kind of fruit will he reap from us? Will it be sweet justice and beautiful love, or will it be rotten evil, masked by an outward show?

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