The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
(Isa.5:1-7; Phil.4:6-9; Mt.21:33-43)
As Christians we know that everything comes from God. We come from God, and all we have comes from God. Indeed, all of Creation comes from Him. Yet it seems clear that God is progressively being squeezed out of our society and even out of our lives.
For example, few people today speak of God’s Creation, even though He gave us responsibility for it. Now, it’s simply called ‘the environment’ and God is rarely, if ever, ever mentioned.
As well, our English language is full of biblical references, but few know this. Consider, for example, ‘Labour of love’ (1Thess.1:3); ‘Letter of the law’ (2Cor.3:6); ‘Apple of my eye’ (Deut.2:10); ‘Signs of the times’ (Mt.16:3); ‘At my wit’s end’ (Ps.107:27); ‘Bite the dust’ (Ps.72:9); and ‘Drop in the bucket’ (Is.40:15).
And did you notice the words ‘Sour Grapes’ in our first reading today? We all use these phrases, but who remembers where they come from?
For most people, too, Sundays are no longer for God. They’re for sports, shopping and seeing friends. And most are unaware that the Church started the schools, hospitals and welfare services we all now take for granted. And even when these services are still labelled ‘Christian,’ too many people don’t understand what that means. Indeed, too many parents want the benefits of a Christian education for their children without any reference at all to Jesus.
Recently I read about some research which found that forgiveness is good for your health. Jesus made this point 2,000 years ago (and even forgave those who crucified Him), but He wasn’t mentioned in that article.
Step by step, God is being deleted from our lives, and too many of us seem happy to go along with that.
This isn’t new, however.
Our first reading today is Isaiah’s Song of the Vineyard. It’s the story of a beautiful vineyard that its owner carefully develops and hands on to tenants to manage. But instead of producing a bountiful harvest, all they grow is sour grapes.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus continues this theme in his Parable of the Wicked Tenants. A landowner gives his beautiful vineyard to tenants to look after while he’s away. He expects them to look after it, but when harvest time comes and he sends his servants to collect his share of the produce, the tenants simply abuse or kill them.
The landowner then sends his son, expecting that he might at least receive some respect, but the tenants kill him, too. They have no sense of responsibility or gratitude.
In this parable, the vineyard represents the world the world we live in. The tenants are the people of the world, including you and me. The landowner is God, who has created this wonderful vineyard and given it to us to look after for Him.
The servants are the prophets God sends to remind us of our responsibilities. And the son is Jesus, who as we know was killed by wicked tenants in Jerusalem.
So what can we take from all this?
Well, these stories should encourage us, for it’s not just today that God has become unfashionable. The world has been trying to banish God ever since the time of Adam and Eve. But the truth is that we all need Him.
Just about everyone has a deep longing for peace, joy, love, kindness and trust. But we know that we cannot achieve any of these things on our own.
Indeed, St Paul in Galatians 5:22 tells us that these are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. They are the very fruits that God wants us to grow in our own vineyards.
And how might we grow them? By inviting the vine of Christ to take root in our lives.
Jesus is first ‘planted’ in us at our baptism, and thereafter we need to cultivate his presence all through our lives, nurturing and encouraging it to grow and produce an abundant harvest of fruits for all to enjoy.
In John 15:5, Jesus says, ‘I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.’
Last Wednesday, the Church celebrated the feast of St Francis of Assisi. St Francis clearly saw God’s creation as his vineyard, and he seriously nurtured the vine of Christ inside himself. He did this so effectively that 800 years later he’s still producing abundant fruit today.
Now, this is our challenge.
What fruits are you producing in your life?