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  • Writer's pictureMonica Walton

Neighbors in my Vineyard

A quick search on the internet reveals that "Neighbor" appears more than 100 times in the Bible, and "Vineyard" more than 60 times. Since Sacred Scripture is the model and teacher for leading a Christian life, I think we need to pay attention to this.

Churning in my heart lately is this question, "Who are the Neighbors in my Vineyard?"

This past Sunday's Readings gave us a clear picture of the Biblical meaning of the Vineyard. In churches far and wide, the people sang or recited this portion of Psalm 80:

"The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel."

Then shortly after, we heard the terrifying news that Israel, the vineyard of the Lord, was under attack. Horrific images flashed across our screens.


On Sunday, we also heard the Parable of the Tenants taking us deeper into the images of the Vineyard of the Lord. The landowner (God) sent His servants to collect the fruits of the tenants' labor. But, the tenants were selfish and greedy people who went so far as to kill the landowner's son (Jesus). ~ Matthew 21:33-43


So, I've been reflecting......Who are the Neighbors in my Vineyard?

My vineyard is where I produce fruit. As Christians, we are the laborers in the broader Vineyard of the Lord, the world. What "neighbors" are invited to work with you in your vineyard? Scripture says, "Love Your Neighbor" -- who comes to mind when you hear this command from the Lord?


Most of us likely first think of the people who physically live near us. As we work to broaden the definition of neighbor, we may think of the people we knew as children. We think of family and the friends who we invite into our homes, the ones we take food to when they are sick, the church members we check on when they are in need. That's all doing God's work, planting and harvesting rich fruit in the vineyard. But, Jesus stretches us beyond our comfortable definition of neighbor as we heard in the familiar Gospel Parable of the Good Samaritan yesterday. ~ Luke 10:25-37


Turns out, our neighbors are

  • the ones we cross the street to avoid

  • the ones who live in the areas we purposefully don't drive through

  • the ones we avoid sitting next to in church

  • the ones we secretly hope our children don't befriend

  • the ones we don't make eye contact with in the grocery store

  • the ones holding up a sign on the corner that we don't engage with

  • the ones who have an opinion that clashes with ours

  • the ones who don't worship or work or think or look like us

  • the ones on the other side of the world who are engaged in brutal wars

Those are the Neighbors in our Vineyard!


In speaking about the definition of "neighbor" in light of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Pope Francis said:

We cannot ignore the suffering of others. We cannot remain spectators!

The theme of the Synod is precisely about this:

"Enlarge the Space of Your Tent." - the whole world, all creation, should fit under our tent.




I awoke this morning to a striking sunrise that I could only describe as "blood orange" -- it made me think of the people waking up to war.





I sat and watched and prayed and asked,

"Lord, what are you calling me/us to do for those Neighbors in the Vineyard?"


I turned my head and the view appeared completely different. It was lovely, calm, and serene. This is the same sky viewed from the same seat in the same moment. How easily I could fix my gaze on this view and ignore the other side.



Reports say hundreds have been killed in this latest war and many are worried about that hatred spilling onto American soil. I think the least we can do is pray. Pray for World Peace. Deeply pray. I am not a political activist, but I don't want to turn away and pretend I don't see what is happening. I'm hoping to be a part of some communal prayer services where we Christians come together with our Jewish brothers and sisters to pray for the people of Israel. I'll let you know if that comes to fruition in my lil corner of the world.


What we can do is bring peace to the places near us that need peace.

  • How can we pray for world peace then turn around and withhold kindness and forgiveness from our family, roommate, co-worker?

  • How can we ask the Lord to bring us peace then fuss and cuss and honk and gesture and cut each other off in traffic?

  • How can we hope for peace to reign when we are disrespectful to store clerks and wait staff?

We need to keep working to do better in our thoughts, words, and actions toward the people we encounter each day.


That's a great step to bringing peace to our Neighbors in the Vineyard.


Why did the landowner keep sending more servants and ultimately his own son to the brutal frontline in his vineyard? Maybe he was just like us parents when our children continue to disobey. We keep trying and hoping and trusting they will do better! We hope that our love and willingness to give them yet another chance will make a difference. We pray they will learn from the example of our sacrifices, and want to do the same.


In the Second Reading last Sunday, Saint Paul said to the Philippians,

"Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you." ~ Ph 4:6-9

We bring peace when we do what Jesus and His followers taught, not what we've learned and received and heard and seen in the world when it's contrary to what God wants.


This song by Lauren Daigle speaks to all of this beautifully. Listen and absorb the wisdom she is sharing through song.

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Invitado
13 oct 2023
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Monica, this is so true and written beautifully in simplicity and profundity! I agree 100%. May our hearts be inclined to obey our Master and love our neighbors! Thank you!


C.D.

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Monica Walton
Monica Walton
15 oct 2023
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Amen! Praying for the world that we may all love God, self, and neighbor!

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Invitado
12 oct 2023

Well said my friend! Praying for Israel and hurting for them.

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Monica Walton
Monica Walton
15 oct 2023
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Thankful we are united in prayer.

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Invitado
11 oct 2023
Obtuvo 5 de 5 estrellas.

I am praying for peace. I think the Jews deserve peace and want peace. They have suffered greatly. Thank you for reminding me who is in my personal vineyard.


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Monica Walton
Monica Walton
15 oct 2023
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Amen!

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