Over the years, one frequent question I received was the mother asking me, concerning her misbehaving son, “Where did I go wrong?” She was, of course, blaming herself for the wrong choices her son had made. I would often reply, “What about free will?” People make free choices thus assuming the blame in spite of what their mothers had told them. Mothers have expectations and the current reality often turns out to be quite different.
” Expectations” and “reality” seem to be the focus of today’s first reading (27th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Isaiah: 5:1-7). In the reading, the “expectations” were very high. The vines were planted in fertile soil; the choicest plants would be used; and a worktower was constructed to protect the vineyard from outside interference. Witb all these expectations, what could possibly go wrong?
In truth, the “reality” did not meet the expectations. Inedible grapes grew. Needless to say, the vineyard owner was disappointed. So, he cursed the crop. The fields would not be plowed nor the plants pruned; no rain would fall.
The text tells us that the vineyard represented Israel. Israel had not met the expectations of the Sinai covenant which demanded responsibility to and for others. Curiously, the Hebrew text conveys the idea a bit more strongly by utilizing a play on words. The translation reads, “…he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry.” (Isaiah 5:7) (1)-justice= mishpat; bloodshed=mispah; (2)-righteousness=sedaqah; hear a cry=tseaqah.
This reading can have meaning for us by underscoring the fact that the reality should equal the expectation. What is expected of us, as true disciples of Jesus, is that we behave toward others as he did, namely, with justice, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. The reality should correspond to the expectations. A major obstacle would be that there is no correspondece. It would thus be a matter of choice. What would be the motivating factor that regulates my choice?
Such motivation would be the total incorporation of Jesus’ moral value system of treating others with compassion and understanding. Only then can there be a correspondence between “expectations” and “reality,” and if I do something wrong it is because I chose to do so.