1.0. THE TWO VINEYARDS
Let us meditate on the two beautiful parables of the vineyards as given in the first reading and the Gospel of today. The prophet Isaiah talks about the vine garden that was planted on a fertile hill, well fertilized, cleared of stones, “and planted with choice vines.” In the Gospel, Jesus says the householder sets a hedge around the vine garden. In both stories, there was a well built wine press and a watchtower in vineyard. There was great expectation that such huge tender care committed to the vines and the garden would yield great results.
In Isaiah’s version of the story, the vines disappointed the owner. “When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? After consuming all his love and care, the vines repaid the householder with soar grapes. As a result, the vineyard lost all the favours it enjoyed, and ended up a waste land. At the end of the story, the prophet said, “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting.” The wild grapes they produced were bloodshed, unrighteousness and tears.
In the Gospel, the householder leased out the vineyard to tenants. The vine produced its fruits but the greedy and selfish tenants would not let the owner receive what was his due. The tenants embodied the unrighteousness of Judah that Isaiah mentioned. The love, generosity and patience of the householder contrasted the greed and wickedness of the tenants. The man was so generous as to stage his son, but they were equally too selfish and wicked as to kill the son with hope of taking over the vineyard completely. At the end, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their season.” Here, the vineyard was not destroyed, but the unrighteous caretakers.
2.0. THE CORNERSTONE
At the end of the parable, Jesus said to the Chief priests and elders of the people, “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.” Thus, the religious leaders represent the tenants placed in charge of the vineyard of the Lord. The Messiah whom they tried to usurp his position was actually their last hope of being saved. A miserable end awaits any religious leader who is greedy, selfish and wicked, who scandalizes the people and leads them astray, such that God would not receive the glory due to Him from His vineyard.
The Church is the new vineyard of the Lord. Jesus towers over it from the Cross like the watchtower in the vineyard. The fount of life flows from His pierced side like the wine press. He hedge it all round and fertilized it with His word and Sacraments. The vineyard of Jesus is fruitful, bearing fruits of righteousness and holiness. In a way, each baptized Christian is a tenant to whom this choice vine is entrusted to, and the Master expects to reap his fruit at the appointed time. If we act like the greedy and selfish tenants in the parable, we shall meet a miserable end. That is why St Paul urges us not to be ambitious or anxious about anything, instead we should approach everything with prayer, supplication and thanksgiving to God. Already, we begin to return to God the glory that is His due; giving Him His own share of the fruits of the vine! “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
And if the contemplation of our hearts and minds, and our aspirations are on Christ Jesus as St Paul said, then we will come to realize that Jesus Himself is the fruitful vine and we are His branches through which His fruits come forth (In 15:1-8). He is the Taproot of our lives, the Cornerstone on which we stand secure. So, let the meditations of our hearts be on the righteousness, justice and peace of God. Our minds should be focused on whatever is lovely, excellent and worthy of praise, “And the God of peace will be with you." Amen.
Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Saints Peter & Paul Catholic Church,
Sunday October 4th, 2020.