Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 2, 2005; Year: A
Is. 5:1-7; Phil. 4:6-9; Mt. 21:33-43
The fruitful shall inherit the Kingdom of God.
"Let me sing for my beloved my love-song concerning
his vineyard; My beloved had a vineyard on a very
fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and
planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in
the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; he
expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.
And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to
do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I
expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild
And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I
will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will
break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I
will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will
also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of
Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant
planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed;
righteousness, but heard a cry!" [Is. 5:1-7]
"Do not worry about anything, but in everything by
prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your
requests be made known to God. And the peace of God,
which surpasses all understanding, will guard your
hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is
honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever
is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any
excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things. Keep on doing the things that
you have learned and received and heard and seen in me,
and the God of peace will be with you." [Phil. 4:6-9]
"Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of
the people: 'Listen to another parable. There was a
landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it,
dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he
leased it to tenants and went to another country.
When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to
the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants
seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and
stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than
the first; and they treated them in the same way.
Finally he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will
respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they
said to themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill
him and get his inheritance.' So they seized him, threw
him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he
do to those tenants?' They said to him, 'He will put
those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the
vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce
at the harvest time.'
Jesus said to them, 'Have you never read in the
scriptures: 'The stone that the builders rejected has
become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and
it is amazing in our eyes'? Therefore I tell you, the
kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to
a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom." [Mt.
Jesus began to tell the parable that is the gospel of
today he began with an image familiar to his listeners -
including you and me. This image is the vineyard, and
the word 'vineyard' usually symbolizes some kind of
But now Jesus took this image, surely dear to the hearts
of the Galileans who listened, and turned it on sort of
up side down. You know, it's not unusual for Jesus to
take a word or an image associated with the holy and
turn it around and associate it with the dark. He did
it in the Parable of the Leaven for example.
I understand this parable, it is Jesus' commentary about
groups and about what happens when there is no real
community, only collections of people, none of whom
understands or cares about other each other. We have
come thousands of years since Jesus told this parable,
and in some ways we have made wonderful progress in
community building - even our nation is one example,
another our own Journeying Community. There have also
been disasters too. Take this country again - and our
present readiness to destroy others to preserve our own.
Is this the way to fulfillment?
now the parable and its plot: A landowner goes to a
distant country and there he establishes a vineyard--in
imagination it is in Galilee--and he rents or leases the
vineyard to local people and agrees to accept a portion
of the produce as payment. He then returns
home--probably some cosmopolitan city such as Caesarea
Philippi, Jaffa or Jerusalem. Time passes; the harvest
season comes and goes and so does the time when he is
supposed to receive his payment. The grapes that the
vineyard produced he might now be willing to accept as
raisins, but he receives nothing. He is troubled,
downright angry. He expects his payment when it is due,
and nothing arrives, not even an explanation.
There is a total lack of moral involvement here; the
landlord buys, leaves, and waits for his money. He is
totally indifferent to what is happening back at "the
farm." He probably lives like a king many miles away.
The lives of the tenants are as nothing to him. He
could present day C.E.O. and millions of stock holders
who have no clear idea to what use their investment are
landlord sends his slaves, emissaries or the Rent Squad,
as you will.
A party of three goes to the vineyard, and being
completely unprepared for a violent encounter, they
suffer greatly. One is knocked in the head with a rock,
another is beat up and a third one is actually killed.
We can only guess at what the landowner makes of this
situation. Perhaps he does not even know what has become
of his rent collectors, so he sends a second deputation
consisting this time of a more than three persons, a
cadre now--but they receive a similar rough reception of
beatings and a killings. But still no rent.
this parable, there are potentially three communities:
tenants, rent collectors, and landlords; they are
totally separate from one another. Community requires
shared beliefs, and in this parable there are none. We
could hear in this details the present day situation
among Israelis - Palestinians; we hear Indians and our
neighbours, Pakistanis. Enmity that never is soothed.
Eventually the owner in a truly idiotic fashion sends
his own son who is, the owner thinks, able to protect
himself by his status in society alone so it seems.
When he shows up, the tenants perhaps miscalculate and
presume that the owner is dead. So, believing the son to
be the sole surviving heir, they kill him in the
expectation of acquiring the vineyard for themselves.
The plan is absurd and illegal, just as it would be
today, but they are driven by their otherwise hopeless
These tenants, probably decent, honest people in the
beginning, have now become truly a dangerous band, and
now they have gone beyond the law and are criminals.
The reason is the desperate need for money to survive.
Under these circumstances, their behavior is not
One verse in Matthew 21:33 is very
important. It says that the landowner LEASED the land to
the tenants. It does not say that He gave it to them. He
LEASED it. When something is leased, something is
expected in return. Equally, those who qualify to become
the children of God, are expected to become shining
lights [Mt. 4:16] in the world. They are expected to
shine in the love of Christ towards all. They are
expected to grow in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. These
spiritual qualities are what the Heavenly Father expects
His children to present to Him in return for His
blessings in acknowledgement and appreciation of the
gift of life that God has given them through the Blood
about it this way for a moment. We are all tenants on
borrowed land; none of us owns the earth. Do we care
for this piece of 'land' we've been given? We are
also landlords and might lord it over others. We need to
see how we treat those who share the earth with us.]
near the end of the parable, Jesus asks "... when the
owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those
tenants?" And the answer is that the owner will put
those wretches to a miserable death and lease the
vineyard to other tenants who will give him his produce
at the harvest time. Perhaps. But the he same lack of
trust will spring
up on both sides again.
Tenants such as these become hard strapped for cash and
simply try various strategies to avoid paying to the
landlord fees or rent or a portion of the produce. The
story is about to repeat itself until some saving
insight develops on all sides. Half of the world's
population lives even today on less than Rs 100 a day!
And a billion go to bed hungry every night.
Jesus' parable is provoking; it is a strong warning
about the consequences of groups estranged from one
another. In it, all are 'foreigners' to one another;
nothing is in harmony; the world is out of order, and it
was against that state of things that Jesus social
teachings were directed.
of contrast to so such negativity, the parable implies
that we are the tenants of the new land where we are
called by Jesus. We both cultivate and receive
cultivation. We have been given a treasure within us and
around us and asked to take good care of both.
then having spent these minutes dwelling with such awful
disorder, shall we close with what are more happy,
consoling words, lines from another source - from one
who was a worker in the vineyard of the Lord; he truly
was a worker, a true tenant.
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