Of Vineyards and Tenants


Of Vineyards and Tenants

Not many of us have the experience of developing and cultivating a vineyard, much less of leasing it out to others. However, we have all experienced disappointment at the lack of results after long and hard labour, whether it be spiritual, physical or intellectual. Sometimes we are the cause or source of that disappointment, and sometimes others are the cause. The parables and Paul’s words to the community of Philippi present challenges and invitations regarding our response to disappointment, failure and our relationships with God and others.

In Isaiah’s parable, the owner of the vineyard’s response to the lack of productivity in the vineyard by taking away its protections and allowing it to be vulnerable to depredation by outside forces. Underlying this response is a sense of sorrow and regret that it has come to this. God’s hopes for the Chosen People have been unanswered, but throughout the writings of Isaiah there is always the hope that the broken relationship will one day be restored, that God’s people will turn back to God. The prophet’s mission and ministry is to continually proclaim God’s love, compassion, mercy and invite people to enter into a renewed relationship with God. There is always hope, not despair.

Jesus uses a similar parable in the Gospel and invites his listeners to provide a response to the landowner’s rejection by the tenants. While those listening to Jesus advocate a violent response – a death sentence, Jesus invites his listeners to repentance. His response that the Kingdom of God will be taken away is more a warning of what will happen unless they have a conversion of heart than a threat of destruction. The possibility of the loss of the Kingdom is real but the loss will be of their doing, not God’s. I’m reminded of the phrases we hear in various prefaces of the liturgy: “Again and again you offered a covenant…and taught us to hope for salvation; you did not abandon us to the power of death; He destroyed death and restored life.” These express God’s dream, desire for us.

Jesus asks a fundamental question of each of us: What kind of Kingdom do you want – one of our own making, or one that is founded on the forgiving, loving norms of God’s desire for humanity? Paul reminds us that if we truly seek to live by God’s Word, then we need to pray with trust, a trust that leads to peace, remembering that God urges us to do good in every circumstance of our lives. Verbalizing our needs in prayer will keep us attentive to where God is leading us. This kind of prayer leads to love of God and a life that Paul describes as honourable, just, pure, gracious, true, excellent, etc. A life that contributes to the good of all in every action of each day.

By Richard Beaudette, OMI
Vocation Team