“All that we have is a gift from God!”
We are but stewards accountable to God for the way we live our lives and care for all our possessions.
After Jesus told the leaders the parable of the two sons as an illustration of God’s merciful love, today in Matthew 21:33-43, he told them of a landowner who planted a vineyard, placed all the necessary facilities in it, and leased it to tenants, then went on a journey.
When harvest time came, the owner sent his servants one after another to collect the proceeds from the tenants, but they all met their Waterloo, each facing a heartless death. Finally, the owner sent his son with the hope that they would accord him respect as the master’s son. Still, no, they thought otherwise: if we killed his son, the heir to his possessions, the vineyard would belong to us forever, so they thought, and thus the master’s son met the same fate as the servants.
What do you think the master should do to these tenants, Jesus asked?
The leaders responded with an ‘eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth’ answer: destroy them and their place; let another who will be accountable take over. Ok. But was that really what God would do?
Friends, God has been generous and loving in confiding the finest gift to us. We are to protect these gifts, nourish them, and care for them to return the abundant harvest to God. We are the vineyard!
We can rejoice in our gifts, but we must also remember that the gifts are bestowed on loan, and God expects good fruit from His vineyard. We are all tenants and stewards of God’s vineyard.
Are you in a leadership position of any kind? Your subjects are your vineyard. As a couple, your wife or your husband is your vineyard. As parents, your child or children are your vineyard. As celibates, priests, and nuns, your flock is your vineyard. As individuals, single, young, or old, everyone that you encounter becomes your vineyard. The world and all that is in it are our vineyards!
What harvest does God expect from us?
In the prophecy of Isaiah 5:7, the Lord demands that the harvest of justice and integrity—faithfulness, right living, fairness—should flourish among His people.
However, instead of justice, there is violence and oppression. Instead of integrity, we hear the cries of distress from the exploited and dispossessed.
God, in His merciful love, sends all kinds of messengers to speak His truth to us, warn us, explain, teach, encourage, and guide us. He gives us many chances to turn and serve Him actively and obediently.
The question then is: do we listen to the voice of God speaking in our conscience, or do we smother it? Do we hear the voice of God speaking through the Scriptures, or do we block out that voice by never even opening the Bible? Do we hear the authentic teaching of the church? Do we turn away from the poverty of our neighbors, their loneliness, their sadness, and their pain? Do we still care for the good of our natural environment?
Friends, it is easy for us to cocoon ourselves in our comfortable little ghetto, just as those tenants in our gospel today did, to be safely protected from the outside world behind the physical and emotional fences we construct to keep our selfish world safe and undisturbed.
It is easy to ignore the signs that call us back to a renewed mind and just keep on going the way we are.
There are many ways to kill God’s messengers, to insulate ourselves from the needs of others. But if we continue this way, if we continue to fail in producing the harvest of good works, of justice, of integrity, then one day we too will have to face the judgment of the God who asks us simply to work for His kingdom through living a life based on justice, compassion, and integrity.
I would like to end with the words of St. Paul in Philippians 4:8-9: ‘Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with whatever is truthful, holy, just, pure, lovely, and noble. Be mindful of whatever deserves praise and admiration. Then, put into practice what you have learned from me, what I passed on to you, what you heard from me, or saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.’
Let us pray,
Lord, we are your vineyard; take care of us, protect us, give us always new life, and send us new messengers. Overcome our stubbornness so that we can listen, be converted, and produce good fruit. We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr. James Anyaegbu