Father Francisco Nahoi gave one of his quickest homilies this Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time at our Cathedral in Reno Nevada. His reading was on the Gospel and the first reading, Isaiah 5, where Isaiah wrote, “The vineyard of the Personal Name of Zabaoth is Beth Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for Mishphoth, but Mishphach! for Tzaddic, but hark, Isaac!”
Father Francisco stated this passage is about leadership, leadership that promotes life, from conception to natural death. Images of Deuteronomy 30:19 came to mind as he spoke. This states, “Choose life, that you and your descendants may live.”
You may see the conservative, anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia verbiage of the so-called five-points. This is not what Father Francisco had in mind. When we meet any person, or hear about any person suffering, God calls us to choose life. God made all people in the image and likeness of God. As we treat our neighbor, the next door to our Mansion, or in the slums of Neil Road in Reno, or Montello Avenue in Sparks, or the boroughs in the Bronx, or the ghettoes of Tripoli, or Sirte Libya, we treat God.
God calls us to promote the most life we can possibly produce in each person, and all people that we can possibly produce. Debate the state of the fetus in the womb, live individual, or growth upon the mother, God calls us to promote the most life we can possibly promote, for both fetus and mother.
See a homeless man? Choose life, means finding that man a home, a hot meal, and adequate clothing. Choose life means, promoting the most education we can possibly promote, for all people, from the slums of Neil Road in Reno, to the aristocrat on Skyline Boulevard. Choose life means making sure the children in our schools have adequate, nutritious meals, to study, and not worry about stomach rumblings.
Mishphach, from the first reading, has two meanings. The first is family. God looks for correct judicial precedent, but finds different families in positions of leadership feeling they are entitled to their positions. He does not find one family, Israel, working together for the common good of all. God looks for charity, and he finds Isaac, the poor crying out for relief of their distress.
Father mentioned the Bush Administration position; foreigners are not Americans and not entitled to the protections of the American courts. The vineyard is not our vineyard. It is God’s vineyard, the foreigner and the poor is his planting.
If we chop down a tree and the stump lives, it will put forth wild shoots from the seemingly dead trunk. These wild shoots are Mishphach. If we chop people off from the way God destined them to grow through low wages, inadequate regulation of the workplace or the marketplace, and these people go off in wild directions, they are Mishphach. Grapes, in Hebrew are named because they are intertwined, one plant. Wild grapes, refer to disordered grapes, not intertwined in a healthy way. They are ripe, fermented. This comes from being Mishphach.
Father pointed out, the leaders, are the caretakers of his vineyard. That applies to the Supreme Court who identify as Catholic with their Red Mass in Washington D.C. That applies to the President of the United States, the Catholic Vice President, and that applies to the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who claims to be Catholic. That also applies to our Catholic Governor of Nevada, who sometimes attends our Mass at our humble Cathedral, and that applies to the business owner sitting in our pews.
God will not hold the Mishphah, poor wild shoots going off in all directions responsible for their going off in all wild directions. God will hold the leadership responsible. God looks for Tzaddic, charity from our leaders. If he finds Isaac, the cry, he will hear that cry and to quote managers, “If you cannot do the job, I will find someone who can!” As leaders, do we want to hear those words or see what comes after?