Is. 5:1-7; Phil. 4:6-9; Mt. 21:33-43
The actions of the owner of the vineyard were all quite normal. In the time of Jesus, Palestine was a troubled place with little luxury. Therefore, the land lords were interested only in collecting the rent at the right time.
Even the action of the cultivators was not out of the common. The country was seething with economic unrest. The working people were discontented and rebellious. Jesus uses this familiar contemporary situation very powerfully, to describe God's actions in the history of salvation. The vineyard is the nation of Israel, and itsowner is God. The cultivators are the religious leaders of Israel. The messengers who were sent successively are the prophets. They were often rejected and killed by the people of Israel. Here, Jesus was prophetically addressing the chief priests and the Pharisees who were present.
One of the most important messages of the passage is "God's trust in men. The owner of the vineyard entrusted it to the cultivators. He did not even stand over them to exercise supervision. Every task we receive is a task given us by God. Along with human freedom and human privilege, it speaks of human answerability.
A king called his advisers and asked them to write down the wisdom of the ages so that he could pass it on to future generations. After a lot of deliberation, the advisers came up with several volumes of wisdom and presented them to the king. The King told them that it was too lengthy and it had to be condensed. Then they summarized it and presented to him one volume. He said it too was very long. They came back with one chapter. The king did accept that and said even one page was too long. Finally the advisers brought back one sentence that satisfied the king. That is, "There is no free lunch." We have to accept the task entrusted to us and work hard to honour the trust that God has placed on us. The cultivators in the parable wanted to kill the heir and inherit the vineyard. The owner wanted them to take ownership of the vineyard, not through easy way of annihilating the heir, but by hard and responsible work. God has entrusted us with his vineyard, and He wants us to take ownership of it. Today the church gives us ample opportunities to prove to the world that we are the real heirs of the kingdom of Jesus.
I was shocked by a news report from India. There was a protest launched by two Christian communities on certain religious issues. They were headed by Religious leaders and the clergy. Public fasting and prayers were held. All went well. But it was observed that the Beverages Corporation near the public demonstration grounds had the record sale on those days. It was noticed by our brothers of other religions and faith. So, the contradiction between the public life and private life is something that challenges the credibility of our actions. If we are ready to take the ownership of every task entrusted to us we should not be looking for the easy way.
Once there was a lark singing in the forest. A farmer came by with a box full of worms. The lark stopped him and asked, "What do you have in the box and where are you going?" The farmer replied that he had worms and that he was going to the market to trade them for some feathers. The lark said, "I have many feathers. I will pluck one and give it to you and that will save me looking for worms." The farmer gave the worms to the lark and the lark plucked a feather and gave it in return. The next day the same thing happened and the day after and so on and on until a day came that the lark had no more feathers, now it could no longer fly to go hunting for worms. It looked ugly and stopped singing.
What the lark thought was an easy way to get food turned out to be the tougher way. It spoiled its beauty, and deprived it of its beautiful song. The same thing is true with our lives too. Many times we look for easier way, which ends up in troubles. Hard work is the only means to take ownership of the responsibilities entrusted to us. The harder a person works, the better he feels. A mother completes her works at home, and when he retires to bed she experiences a sense of satisfaction and pride in her achievements of the day.
Some people think that success is gained by luck. There is a beautiful poem worth reflecting on.
He worked by day
And toiled by night.
He gave up play
And some delight.
Dry books he read,
New things to learn.
And forged ahead,
Success to earn.
He plodded on with
Faith and pluck;
And when he won,
Men called it luck. (Anonymous)
"Great minds have purpose, others have wishes," wrote Washington Irving.
To all men comes a day of reckoning. We are answerable for the way in which we have carried out the task God gave us to do.
Today's Gospel Reading ends with the words, "Therefore I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be... given to a people that produces the fruits of the Kingdom." [Mt. 21:43] The fruits of the Kingdom are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. They are "love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things." [Gal. 5:22-23]