BY: Fr. Johnbosco Obika

Is. 5:1-7
Phil. 4:6-9
Matt. 21:33-43

Knowing that feeling of parents who spend so much to pay their child’s school fees only to be greeted with poor results at the end of the term, or who spent all they had to see her child through the University only to face rejection from the child after being gainfully employed, will help us to appreciate today’s readings. God abhors fruitlessness and rejection. As a fruitful vineyard gladdens the farmer so does a fruitful soul gives joy to God. So, today we are called to be fruitful vineyards and accept the salvation God has brought through his Son.

In the first reading the prophet Isaiah uses the image of the vineyard to sum up the history of Israel in their relationship with God. Israel was a vine yard which the Lord invested much love and cultivated with choicest vines. God was not found wanting in caring for Israel. But when he looked for it to yield grapes, it yielded sour grapes. God’s love for them was not reciprocated in their relationship with one another. God looked for love but found hatred, he looked for justice but found injustice, he looked for righteousness but sinfulness was found. God gave them all and they produced nothing. Therefore, the consequence shall be the destruction of the vineyard.

Jesus takes the indictment against fruitlessness further from the vineyard to tenants in the vineyard in the gospel story. In summary, the landowner in the gospel is God, the vineyard is Israel, the tenants/cultivators are the Jewish religious leaders, the landowner’s messengers are the prophets of God who were obedient and preached to the people of Israel, and the son of the landowner is Jesus who was the stone rejected by the builders which has become the cornerstone. The gentiles are the other tenants who were given the vineyard.

The vine/vineyard signify spiritual good and divine treasure. Naboth’s refusal to give out his vineyard to king Ahab in exchange for a vegetable garden buttresses the spiritual importance of the vine/vineyard (1Kings 21). In John 15:1, Jesus calls himself the true vine.

We can understand the vineyard in the readings of this Sunday in the following senses:
1. As the people of Israel according to the psalm of the today (Psalm 80). Jesus gave his parable as a stern warning to the scribes, Pharisees, priests and all their leaders who ignored God’s prophets and rejected the message of Jesus. 2. As the church which harbours the spiritual treasures of God’s salvation; he wants church leaders to be fruitful in words and deeds and not to make the vineyard counter productive.
3. As the kingdom of God entrusted to every child of God to cultivate and produce good fruits; he wants us to bear fruits of salvation. St. Paul in the second reading urges the Philippians to pay attention to virtues of truth, purity and decent living as he has thought them in words and deeds, rather than being consumed by anxiety.
4. As the earth which God created and gave man to cultivate, he wants political leaders to bear fruits of peace and harmony for common good.
5. It can be seen as the different gifts and graces God has given us to nurture and produce fruits; he wants all of us to serve God and humanity with our individual gifts.
6. The vineyard is also a metaphor for the human person with a soul clothed with dignity. The psalmist correctly puts it: “You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:5).
7. The family is God’s vineyard. He wants parents to work hard to bear fruits of godly children.

God has given us every favourable ground to flourish and bear fruits out of his generosity and love.

Notice that the landowner did three things to make sure the vineyard is fruitful:
1. He built a wall to protect it from invaders.
2. He dug a wine press to get the work easily done.
3. He built a watchtower which stands for his assurance of security. They are the grace for fruitfulness.

Let every Christians be a responsible tenant by:
1. Caring for our souls more than the body,
2. By bearing grapes chastity, truth, decency, unity and peace and not of immortality, anger, hate, bribery and corruption.
3. By taking the messengers of God seriously and pay attention to their warnings from and not treating them with contempt.
We Accepting Jesus and his offer of salvation in order to escape the destruction which awaits the wicked tenants.

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