BEARING FRUITS AND BEING ACCOUNTABLE
are all invited to work in the Lord's vineyard. But the Lord does not force anyone. He only invites. If someone doesn't want to work, or wants to only under his own conditions, he does not have to do so. In the Gospel we heard a parable about persons who wanted to work only under the stipulation that they themselves would dispose of the vineyard and its fruits. The common theme of today’s readings is the necessity of bearing good fruit in the Christian life. The readings warn us of the punishment for spiritual sterility, ingratitude and wickedness.
In today’s first reading, called “Isaiah's Song of the Vineyard,” the prophet describes God's care of, and expectations for, His Chosen People. God’s Chosen People failed to bear fruit in spite of the blessings lavished upon them by a loving and forgiving God. Further, they were poor tenants in the Lord's vineyard. Hence, God laments: "I expected My vineyard to yield good grapes. Why did it yield sour ones instead?"
Saint Paul tells us today in the second reading, from the Letter to the Philippians: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” Paul tells the Philippians about the high expectations he has for them, reminding them that they need to become fruit-producing Christians by praying and giving thanks to God and by practicing justice, purity and graciousness in their lives. We, too, must grow in our relationship to God through prayers of adoration and thanksgiving. These should be followed by prayers of contrition and petition in which we ask for spiritual healing and temporal favors.
The gospel parable about the landowner and the tenants of his vineyard is very challenging. We are reminded of the cliché: Don’t shoot the messenger just because you don’t like the message!
It is first of all the story of the “landowner”, deeply grieved at the conduct of his tenants. His story is in four stages:
– he cares lovingly for the vineyard (verse 33a);
-he “leases” it (vs. 33b);
–the tenants reject his messengers (vs. 34-38)
– his angry response (vs. 40-41).
The landowner represents us when we give our all as parents, teachers, church or other community leaders. He also represents the founders of religious orders, social movements or political parties. A time comes when we must all let go of our authority (“go abroad”) and entrust to others the people or causes we have served. The parable reminds us of the shock we experience when we learn that our trust has been betrayed.
The landowner also represents God so that the parable invites us to enter into God’s feelings when he sees how we human beings treat his precious sons and daughters and his beautiful nature; how we come to reject Him simply because we cannot measure up to our responsibility, that which is expected of us.
In the parable the “tenants” become angry when they are reminded that the vineyard has been leased to them and they must be accountable for what they have done with it. Their anger grows ever more violent (vs. 35-39). As the story develops, the root of their anger is revealed – they want to own the vineyard (vs. 38b).
The violence of the tenants in the parable may seem exaggerated on a first reading, but they are a dramatic reminder of the violence which is so much a part of our modern culture – against nature, minorities, men against women, adults against children. In each case it is a matter of “tenants” being angry at being reminded that they are accountable. The parable reminds us too that the sense of stewardship should be fostered by our religious faith. The fact is however that we religious people, “chief priests and elders of our people,” can forget our dependence on God and no longer thank him for his gifts.
The parable advises us about the extent to which some people will go to further their own interests. They will do anything to have their own way. They will compromise their principles. They will blatantly disregard the reputations of friends and colleagues. They will intimidate and frighten them. In their ruthlessness, they will even shoot the messenger because they do not like the message. When we reject Christ’s teaching spoken to us by family and others, we also reject Christ speaking to us through them. In rejecting Christ, we reject the eternal life that he has won for us through his suffering, death and resurrection. Christ is the keystone, so often rejected, yet so necessary for our salvation and the salvation of all people. Without Christ we cannot have life with God.
Beloved, there is no way that our loving God is going to try to destroy us or even try to harm us in any way. The images that are used in Scripture sometimes leave us with a sense that God is just waiting to judge us and throw us in Hell. But that is because we misunderstand the words and images of Scripture. Instead, the words of Scripture are the words of men, reflecting in some Divine Way, the reality of God. Scripture is therefore the word of God in the words of men.
Friends, we need to recognize that bad actions on our own part will bring bad results in our lives—not because of God wanting to do something bad to us but because our life will reflect the way that we live. If we live dishonestly, it will destroy us eventually. If we live just according to the lusts of the flesh, that also will eventually destroy any deep relationships what we might have. If we live only seeking power, we will at some point lose power and realize that what we sought was worth nothing.
It is our own actions that actually end up condemning us and making our lives to be a mess—not God. So many of the great theologians and saints have said in their writings that God condemns no one. Rather we condemn ourselves by the choices that we make. In the end we suffer the consequences of our actions or inactions.
The Lord’s vineyard at present is the Church, and we Christians are the tenants from whom God expects fruits of righteousness. The parable warns us that if we refuse to reform our lives, to become productive, we, too, could be replaced as the old Israel was replaced by the "new" Israel. We cease being either God's vineyard or the tenants of God's vineyard when we stop relating to others as loving servants. The parable teaches that instead of glorying in our privileges and Christian heritage, we are called to deeds of love, including bearing personal and corporate witness that invites others into God's kingdom.
Are we producing good fruits in the Lord’s vineyard, as a parish, as individuals, in our family? Jesus has given us the Church, and through her everything necessary to make Christians fruit-bearing: The Bible, The Sacraments of the Church, and Role models in thousands of saints. We are expected to make use of these gifts and produce fruits for God.
Today's parable invites us to turn to Christ again. It urges us not to reject Christ in our lives simply because we dislike the challenge of his message. He is the keystone who establishes and maintains our relationships with God. He loves us unconditionally. How responsible are we in bearing the kind of fruits that God expects of us?
Prayer - Lord teach us to be diligent in working in your vineyard and help us to bear good fruits that will last, Amen!!!