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Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 8, 2023

Today’s Invitation

Today, we unite in the spirit of solidarity and righteous anger against the injustices of capitalism and imperialism. Let our reflection and action through Catholic tradition and Catholic Social Teaching be a testament to our unwavering commitment to dismantling oppressive systems and creating a world where the dignity of every worker is upheld, and the marginalized find their voices heard and valued. Together, with the help of Priscila Alves Goncalves DaSilva, The Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice, and the music of Tennessee Ernie Ford, we walk the path toward a more just and compassionate world, guided by the principles of faith, social justice, and the relentless pursuit of lasting change.

Commentary by Gabriella Lisi

Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1

Isaiah 5:1-7

Let me now sing of my friend.
It is a love song about a vineyard.
My friend had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.
My friend dug the soil, cleared the stones,
and planted the choicest vines,
And within it built a watchtower
and constructed a wine press.
My friend anticipated the crop of grapes,
but what it yielded was rotten grapes.
Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard:
What more could I have done for my vineyard
that I have not done?
Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes,
did it bring forth bad fruit?
Now, I will let you know
what I mean to do to my vineyard:
take away its hedge, give it over to grazing,
break through its wall, let it be trampled!
I will let it go to wilderness;:
it will not be pruned or hoed,
but overgrown with thorns and briers.
I will command the clouds
not to send rain upon it.
The vineyard of YHWH Omnipotent is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah are YHWH’s cherished vine.
YHWH looked for justice, but found bloodshed,
for righteousness, but found only a cry of suffering.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 80

Response: The vineyard of Our God is the house of Israel.

There was a vine: / you uprooted it from Egypt;
To plant it, / You drove out other nations.
R: The vineyard of Our God is the house of Israel.

Why have You destroyed its fences? /Now anyone can go and steal its grapes,
The forest boar can ravage it / and wild animals eat it.
R: The vineyard of Our God is the house of Israel.

Please, Adonai Sabaoth, relent! / Look down from heaven, look at this vine.
Visit it, / protect what Your own right hand has planted.
R: The vineyard of Our God is the house of Israel.

We will never turn from You again; / our life renewed, we will invoke Your Name.
Adonai, Sabaoth, bring us back, / let Your face smile on us and we will be safe.
R: The vineyard of Our God is the house of Israel.

Reading 2

Philippians 4:6-9

Dismiss all anxiety from your minds;
instead, present your needs to God through prayer and petition,
giving thanks for all circumstances.
Then God’s own peace, which is beyond all understanding,
will stand guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, my sisters and brothers,
your thoughts should be wholly directed to all that is true,
all that deserves respect,
all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous or worthy of praise.
Live according to what you have learned and accepted;
what you have heard me say and seen me do.
Then will the God of peace be with you.


Matthew 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people
“Listen to another parable.
There was a property owner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it, installed a winepress and erected a tower.
Then the owner leased it out to tenant farmers and went on a journey.

“When vintage time arrived,
the owner sent aides to the tenants to divide the shares of the grapes.
The tenants responded by seizing the aides.
They beat one, killed another and stoned a third.
A second time the owner sent even more aides than before,
but they treated them the same way.
Finally the owner sent the family heir to them, thinking,
‘They will respect my heir.’

“When the vine-growers saw the heir, they said to one another,
‘Here’s the one who stands in the way of our having everything.
With a single act of murder, we would seize the inheritance.’
With that, they grabbed and killed the heir outside the vineyard.
What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do to those tenants?”

They replied,
“The owner will bring that wicked crowd to a horrible death
and lease the vineyard out to others,
who will see to it that there are grapes for the proprietor at vintage time.”

Jesus said to them,
“Did you ever read in the scriptures,
‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone;
it was our God’s doing and we find it marvelous to behold’?

“That is why I tell you, the kindom of God will be taken away from you
and given to people who will bear its fruit.”

The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved. 

The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.



Labor, Justice, and Faith

Dear siblings in faith,

Today, as we gather to reflect on the profound connection between labor, justice, and faith, we find ourselves at a crossroads, challenged by the prevailing narratives of capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism. In this moment, we turn to the wisdom of Scripture, not as a set of rigid boundaries, but as a wellspring of inspiration to guide our anti-capitalist, anti-colonial, and anti-imperialist journey.

In the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 5:1-7), we encounter the image of the vineyard – a powerful metaphor for labor’s intrinsic dignity. Just as the vineyard owner meticulously tends to the vines, God’s providence extends to each of us. Yet, just as the owner expects good fruit, workers too have the right to expect fair wages and just treatment. The emergence of wild grapes symbolizes moral decay, urging us to champion workers’ rights and dignified labor practices.

Our faith journey takes us to the writings of Saint Paul (Philippians 4:6-9), who calls us to seek peace and righteousness. This isn’t limited to personal piety but extends to our economic lives. Peace in the workplace means more than the absence of conflict; it requires fair compensation, transparent economic dealings, and adherence to moral standards. Our collective efforts to embody love, equity, and economic justice are essential.

In the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 21:33-43), a parable unfolds, which transcends its spiritual roots. It reveals the tension between powerful authorities and exploited workers, mirroring the broader societal oppressions we face today. This reinterpretation urges workers, like the tenants, to unite against systems that perpetuate economic inequality. It is a call for collective action, justice, and fairness in labor.

My friends, labor is more than a mere transaction; it is a sacred expression of our humanity. As we reflect on these passages, let us remember that our faith calls us to rise above the oppressive narratives of capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism. Let us envision a world where labor is dignified, where justice prevails, and where compassion reigns.

As we navigate this complex intersection of labor, justice, and faith, may our hearts be filled with the spirit of solidarity, and may our actions echo the teachings of Christ. In our collective efforts, we can indeed challenge oppressive systems and work towards a world where compassion and justice are the guiding principles.

Commentary by Gabriella Lisi

Gabriella (she/they/he) earned their Bachelor of Arts degree from Xavier University and holds a Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. Gabriella currently serves as a Civil Rights Investigator at Ohio State University, focusing on issues of discrimination and inequality. They are also the Director of Communications for the Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice (@religionandjustice), where they amplify the program’s mission. Gabriella’s commitment to inclusivity and accessibility was evident in their previous role as a Student Services Coordinator in Disability Services at Columbia University. They are dedicated to promoting social justice and equity in all endeavors, with a focus on labor rights and class issues.

Engage Catholic Social Teaching

Catholic Social Teaching emphasizes the profound dignity inherent in every human being’s work. This concept extends beyond mere economic transaction; it underscores the intrinsic value of labor, which contributes significantly to the broader common good of society. Workers aren’t commodities; their work represents an essential dimension of their humanity. Moreover, this teaching places great importance on the rights of workers. It asserts that they have not only the right to earn just wages but also to operate in safe working conditions. Furthermore, they have the liberty to engage in collective organizing to protect their rights and uphold their innate dignity. 

The biblical connection here can be found in Isaiah 5:1-7, where the vineyard metaphor alludes to the dignity of work. The owner’s expectation of good fruit symbolizes the aspiration for just compensation and equitable treatment for laborers. In a similar vein, the subversive interpretation of Matthew 21:33-43 aligns neatly with the principle of workers’ rights within Catholic Social Teaching. This parable underscores the stark tension between the powerful landowner and the exploited workers, driving home the urgency of confronting oppressive systems and relentlessly pursuing justice and fairness for laborers.

Solidarity, a foundational concept of Catholic Social Teaching, is the linchpin that binds these principles together. It underscores the profound interconnectedness of all humanity. This teaching calls upon us to be shoulder-to-shoulder with those who find themselves marginalized, oppressed, or burdened by suffering. It’s an invitation to share in the collective responsibility for the well-being of all members of society, particularly those who face adversity. Within the context of labor rights, solidarity propels Catholics to genuinely empathize with and support those workers who often endure marginalization or exploitation. This includes advocating tirelessly for just wages, secure working conditions, and the essential right to assemble collectively for mutual protection. 

Solidarity as a guiding principle is a call to active engagement in labor rights movements. It motivates us to fervently champion fair labor practices and policies that protect the dignity of workers. In this context, Catholics are encouraged to advocate for minimum wage increases, the creation of safer workplaces, and the establishment of equitable labor laws in their communities. Engaging in meaningful dialogue and cooperation with workers and labor organizations is not just a suggestion but a manifestation of genuine solidarity. This empathetic approach enables a deeper understanding of their challenges and needs, fostering a genuine connection in the quest for justice. Finally, promoting Catholic social teaching as a guiding framework for addressing labor issues is fundamental. It underlines the significance of work’s dignity and the rights of workers, in alignment with the Church’s values. This comprehensive approach underscores the moral duty to uphold worker justice and elevates the well-being of all workers as a central tenet of our faith.


A Contemplative Exercise

Liberating and Compassionate Spirit,

We gather before you with heavy hearts, acutely aware of the injustices perpetuated by oppressive systems of capitalism and imperialism. We pray for the workers, the backbone of our societies, who labor under the weight of economic exploitation and inequality.

Lord, we recognize that these systems often prioritize profit over the well-being of workers, perpetuating poverty, exploitation, and suffering. We acknowledge the complicity of our world in these structures and humbly seek both spiritual and material repentance.

Forgive us, O Lord, for collective and individual apathy and complacency in the face of these injustices. We ask for your guidance and strength to dismantle the structures that oppress workers.

Grant us the wisdom to challenge the capitalist and imperialist ideologies that prioritize power and wealth over human dignity. Help us confront the greed and avarice that drive these systems, and may our actions reflect the values of justice, equity, and compassion.

We pray for those in positions of power, that they may experience a transformation of heart and mind, turning away from the pursuit of profit at any cost and instead seeking the common good of all.

In the spirit of your teachings, may we embody forgiveness and reconciliation as we work to dismantle oppressive structures. Help us create a world where the dignity of work is upheld, where exploitation is replaced with equity, and where the needs of the most vulnerable are met.

In your holy name, we offer this prayer, trusting in your grace to guide us toward a more just and compassionate world. Amen.

A Witness

Priscila Alves Goncalves DaSilva’s Mother

I invite you today, to read the story of Priscila Alves Goncalves DaSilva’s mother and her journey through poverty and religion, “SOLIDARITY IN TIMES OF HELPLESSNESS” from an Interventions Forum, a project of Vanderbilt Divinity School’s Religion and Justice Program, focused on the stories that shape our beliefs, faith, and justice work. While there are two other stories in this particular forum, there is something crucial about Priscila’s mother’s faith and Priscila’s realization that “Working-class people need the good news that they are not guilty of poverty.”

A Community

The Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice

As part of theological and religious reflection, The Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice studies and supports matters of economic and ecological justice and its implications for religious communities and the wider public. Their educational and organizing resources are developed especially for communities and scholars as they engage religion in working towards economic and ecological justice. Through their strategic partnerships between the academy, religious communities, social movements, and the broader public, the program aims to inform and support the work of those dedicated to justice and deep solidarity.

Justice, in many religious traditions, is not an abstract idea but tied to the life of embodied communities. To be just means to restore and to build community at all levels: personal, public, political, and economic. The Wendland-Cook Religion and Justice program believes addressing the relationship between religion and matters of economic and ecological justice is foundational to the flourishing of all people and the planet.

One of the flagship programs that Wendland-Cook offers in pursuit of its mission is Solidarity Circles, a peer network of clergy, faith leaders, and organizers interested in building the solidarity economy. 


Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford

You load 16 tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
St. Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store