Fidelity to God’s Will Produces the Abundant Harvest
We have all experienced that feeling of sadness and disappointment when our expectations or desires are not achieved. In today’s reading, prophet Isaiah laid out nicely a drama that unfolded between God and his chosen people. It was a drama of a loving relationship that turned sour. God’s love for his people seems to yield no good fruit. The people God made his own repeatedly failed him.
God chose to love us and to personalize his love by revealing himself to Abraham and his descendants. He used them as a point of reference and guardian of his promises. This group was to make him present to all humanity. In choosing the patriarch Abraham, he forged a bond and covenant with men and women of the Israelite nation to be ambassadors of his joy and tenderness. However, this relationship falls short. Instead of producing the good fruits of fidelity and peace, they produced jealousy, violence, and hatred.
Prophet Isaiah sums up this failed relationship between God and his people with this expression: “God looked for good grapes but received wild berries.” The vineyard did not yield good fruits. It will lose God’s favor making destruction unavoidable for people who did not perform accordingly. It will be God’s way of punishing his people for their wrongdoing. We see ourselves in this experience. Jesus takes on this powerful imagery of the vineyard when he addresses his audience.
They understood him remembering the prophet Isaiah’s words. Jesus offers a new perspective. He talks about a man “who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug out a vat, and erected a tower.” The owner sent his servants to bring back the proceeds from the vineyard. To his dismay, the servants were badly treated and some were killed. Here we learn of God’s kindness and patience. For God did not give up on his people but repeatedly sent messengers. Finally, he sent his own Son to speak to the chief priests and elders.
When they see his Son, they say: “Let us kill him and then we shall have his inheritance.” That is what they do. How quickly do we get rid of anyone that speaks the truth to us especially when we are confronted with our wrongdoing? How quick are we to anger when our conscience is disturbed? Martyrs shed their blood for the gospel. Likewise, many political and social leaders have died because they challenged wrongdoings.
The tenants wanted to kill the Son and take over the vineyard. When greed and avarice corrupt a soul, one loses the perspective and goes after what does not belong to him. It is a grave ill to behave as if there is no God, or think God is absent from the world. There are folks who bolster their own personal authority by grabbing power and wealth with no regard for God’s message.
We are the new community, the vineyard referred to in Jesus’ story. Our faith community and every ecclesial community is called to be a source of the creative power of God. The ministry of Jesus continues in the church, and through the sacraments we are renewed and sanctified. The sacrament gives us life and unite us with the owner of the vineyard. The power of the spirit is power poured upon us, but we must be careful not to abuse or take it for granted.
The kingdom of God that Jesus speaks of is a gift and not our personal domain. Like the vineyard, we cannot expropriate the Lord’s vineyard for ourselves. As Jesus puts it: “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will yield a rich harvest.” Our success will come from a deep-rooted fidelity and renunciation. Fidelity to God’s will produces the abundant harvest.
In his vineyard, I remain yours,
Fr. Vitalis Anyanike, Pastor