Sunday of Week 27 of Ordinary Time (Year A)
Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43
In life, we often face situations where our efforts, love and kindness are not reciprocated. Sometimes, we are not grateful to other people who have done so much good for us. In today’s first reading from Isaiah and the Gospel from Matthew we are given a stark example of this.
The first reading presents us with a love song about the vineyard. The author of the passage is the singer who describes how his beloved friend out of love prepared his vineyard. The vineyard is well situated on a hillside with the potential to grow and prosper. He built a watchtower to symbolize his vigilance over the vineyard. The beloved friend worked very hard, removed all the stones and planted choicest vines in his vineyard. He hoped that the vineyard would produce good grapes but on the contrary the vineyard produced wild grapes that were inedible. Wild grapes were characterized by violence, bloodshed and oppression that caused people to groan under the yoke of injustice and corruption.
The “vineyard” is often used in the bible as an image for a bride ( Song 2:15, 7:12f.). The people of Israel are often described as the bride of Yahweh. It is clear that the vineyard symbolises God’s people. Israel, the bride and vineyard of God is a disappointment. She is unfaithful, she betrays the love of her friend, that is God. By failing to produce good fruit the people of Israel behave like the unfaithful vine of Sodom and Gomorrah whose grapes are described as grapes of poison (Deut 32:32). Just as the friend will abandon his vineyard, God is going to abandon his people into the hands of the enemy and is going to allow them to go into exile,
In a disguise story, like that of David and the prophet Nathan, the beloved friend appeals to the people of Israel to act as the jury in a way that brings about self-realization and self judgment. He wants them to realize that if they can judge and condemn the unfaithfulness of the bride in the parable they should apply the same judgment to themselves.
Just imagine if our misdeeds were told in parables. We might find ourselves condemning these actions, not realizing that we are the characters referred to in the stories. If we hear about injustices in other countries today, we are quick to condemn them, yet we ourselves sometimes act unjustly. Similarly, some parents readily criticize others for bad parenting, yet they exhibit the same behaviors.
The love song of Isaiah brings out the point that God desires a just society among his people. He wants a society where justice and righteousness reign, but what is the reality in most of our African countries. In the spirit of synodality do we have ears that hear the cries of the people? Are those causing injustice ready to repent in order to create a just society?
Let us, therefore, plead with God using the words of the Psalmist as we say to the Lord, “Have regard for this vine, the stock which thy right hand planted…. Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let thy face shine, that we may be saved!”(Ps 80:16–20).
Today’s gospel is given in the context of Passion Week. Jesus relates a parable of hostile and murderous tenants. It is a parable about a landowner who established a vineyard by putting a hedge around it, building a winepress, and a watchtower, then renting it out to tenants before travelling abroad. When time came for the harvest, he sent batches of his servants to collect his share of the produce. The tenants instead seized his servants, beating some, killing others, and finally king his own son, the beloved. The parable, in fact gives a summary of the story of salvation.
The tenants in the parable do not want to give to the owner grapes from his vineyard. They usurp power and ownership of the vineyard. They want to take possession of the vineyard by force and violence.
The message of the parable is even relevant to our situation. We are the tenants in God’s vineyard. God demands the produce of our work. He wants us to produce fruits of justice and peace. He demands the accountability of the suffering of his people. Like in the story of Cain and Abel, he demands the explanation of the blood of Abel. God demands the entire dominion of our lives and every facet of our lives should reflect his dominion. We are inclined to sideline Jesus yet we cannot have full life without him. Jesus was rejected ultimately killed but he did not remain in the grave but rose from the dead and conquered evil. He is alive indeed. He is in fact the stone rejected by the builders that became the corner-stone.
The parable of the wicked tenants helps to remember that we should be good and trusted tenants in God’s vineyard. God requires that the fruit we bear should contribute to the growth of his kingdom. We are therefore invited to cultivate love, kindness and promote justice and peace.
May our Mother Mary Help of Christians pray for us. Amen.