27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s first reading contains Isaiah’s “Song of the Vineyard”: “Let me sing to my friend the song of his love for his vineyard. My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug the soil, cleaned it of stones, and planted choice vines in it.” With all the care and cultivation, he lavishes on his vineyard, the owner has a lively expectation of a good yield at harvest time. But all he receives for his labors are sour grapes.
Today’s gospel parable describes God as a landowner who prepares a beautiful vineyard, does everything needed for it to yield the expected produce, and then gives it to his people to tend and manage. He entrusts them with the responsibility of caring for his estate and paying their dues.
When vintage time comes the landlord sends his servants to collect what is due to him. But the tenants want not just their share of the harvest, but the whole thing. So, they treat with brutality the servants sent by the landowner. And then the landowner sends his own son, hoping his tenants will respect him. His hope is misplaced: his son is thrown out of the vineyard and killed.
Imagine that the tenants in the parable stand for ourselves and the vineyard for the world we live in. Seeing ourselves as mere tenants who owe the fruit of our labor to a landowner puts our lives in a totally new perspective. We like to think that we really own things. We own cars, houses, property, real estate, etc. In a narrow, legal sense, this is correct. But in an even more fundamental sense we own nothing. We do not even own our lives or the material things that make our lives possible. Like the farmers in the parable, we are only custodians or stewards.
We must not think that today’s gospel parable refers or applies only to those who are very rich and powerful – people who at the height of their power and prosperity, forget that they are mere tenants, caretakers or managers who have to render an account of their lives to God. It is also about people who, because of their wealth and power, easily begin to think that they are ‘gods’ themselves, and that they are answerable to no one. They are the people who dominate others and claim as their property what is not theirs.
However, today’s gospel message is also addressed to each of us, because in one way or another, on one level or another, we have been entrusted with the management of the Lord’s vineyard. Sa atin iniatas ang tungkuling gumawa o magtrabaho sa ubasan – na kumakatawan sa paghahari ng Diyos – upang pamayanihin ang katarungan at kapayapaan, ang kasaganahan at kaganapan ng buhay, ang pagbibigayan at pagbabahagian, ang kapatiran at pagmamahalan. Tayo man ay pinagkalooban ng Diyos ng mga talento, talino at yaman na dapat nating pagbungahin para palaganapin ang kanyang paghahari. Tayo man ay pinili upang magbunga. Inaasahan tayong maging mabunga!
We are subject to God’s expectation of us and subject to his judgment of us. God looks to us for the fruits of faith, hope and love – the so-called “theological virtues.” He expects us to bear prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance – the so-called “cardinal virtues.” He wants us to have wisdom, understanding, counsel, courage, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord – the so-called “seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.” He desires from us charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, trust/faith, modesty, continence/self-control and chastity – the so-called “fruits of the Holy Spirit.”
Indeed, the fruits of the Holy Spirit must be made manifest in our behavior. Let me give you the bullet-points: Our reaching out to others must be motivated by love. We must bring joy that is rooted in God’s love, wherever we are, whatever we do. We must be channels of peace by promoting dialogue, understanding, forgiveness, and reconciliation among people. We must have patience with one another. We must show kindness, even to the unkind, even to those who have no capacity to reciprocate. We must practice acts of generosity by sharing whatever we have with the needy. We must be marked by faithfulness – to espouse, family…faithfulness to our promises, vows, and commitments. We must show gentleness in our treatment of the weak and lowly. We must practice self-control as we deal with other people.
Again, we are God’s tenants and stewards, and as such, we are subject to God’s expectation of us and subject to his judgment of us. God looks to us for the fruits of faith and love and obedience. God expects that we’ll deliver forgiveness and compassion and justice. Today’s gospel parable has its own question addressed to each of us: Are these the fruits we produce?