Hear another parable. Today’s parable follows on the story of the two sons, and the question of which one did the father’s will. It seems clear enough that it was the people, mainly the outcasts, who listened to the message of John who were doing God’s will. Well, in case you didn’t get the message, Jesus said, “Hear, another parable”, and this time he takes it up a notch.
Jesus sets up the story portraying the vineyard just like the one in Isaiah 5:1-7
(Today’s First Reading). But then comes the twist in Jesus’ story. This one is let out to tenants. It obviously yields a good harvest because the owner is expecting a share.
However, the tenants are having none of that. They have forgotten that they are tenants. They have an eye to keeping the vineyard for themselves and they will stop at nothing, no matter how base, to accomplish their goal. They totally disrespect the owner. They beat and kill the owner’s messengers, and when the owner’s son comes, they throw him out of the vineyard and kill him. This story is about more than rejecting the message of John the Baptist. Matthew’s community understood that this story is about the rejection of Jesus by the religious authorities, but also about their rejection of God. But those who reject God, will have what is entrusted to them taken away and given to others.
This is not a past-tense message. This is a story of power and greed, and we see it played out in our world all the time. The powerful and the greedy will stop at nothing – exploitation, torture, murder – to achieve their goals. They have forgotten that they are tenants and stewards of God’s gifts, not the owners. In order to claim ownership over what is put in their charge, they must reject the Owner and all the messengers the Owner sends.
Each one of us is a tenant and a steward of the gifts that God has given us. We, too, may be tempted to think we own those gifts, and that they give us a certain power,privilege, superiority and authority over other people. It is easy to forget that we are tenants and stewards. If we use our gifts and privileges in any way that harms, looks down on or rejects another, or any aspect of God’s creation, then we, too, are rejecting God, the Owner of the gifts, and Jesus whom God has sent.
To whom, then, will those gifts be given if they are taken from us?
Sr. Elizabeth Ferguson, O.P.