In both our first reading from Isaiah and our Gospel we see God presenting His Kingdom as a vineyard. This is a beautiful and rich analogy! A vineyard is a fertile setting for growth. Fruitfulness is its purpose. We are called by Christ to be coworkers in this vineyard, tending it and adding our efforts toward this fruitfulness. It is not a wild, untended place, but a well-ordered world with a master and a purpose. God, the master of the vineyard, sets the plan for how the land will be used, and God has a desired outcome for the land. We are not free to impose our own wills on the vineyard, but we are expected to work with God toward His goal. We are blessed, honored, and privileged to take part in the work of cultivation. The vineyard does not belong to us! We are adopted into the household of the owner, but that does not give us the right to take the vineyard away from its master.
This was the prideful mistake of the wicked tenants in the Gospel parable. They presumed to take the vineyard away from the master, even going so far as to murder the son of the landowner. Jesus warns what will happen to those who would not accept the Father’s plan, but co-opted the vineyard for their own prophets. Jesus addressed this parable to the chief priests and elders, those who had power among the people, as a warning that they must examine what they are doing in conflict against the will of God. They were interested in taking the fruits of the vineyard for themselves. In doing this they were impeding what God was trying to do through them.
For ourselves, we can use the rich image of the vineyard to evaluate what we are doing in our lives and in our ministry in the Church. Am I helping to bear fruit for the Kingdom of God? Am I listening to God so that I can know His desire for the vineyard? Do I know what tasks have been entrusted to me? Am I being intentional about my efforts for God? Have I become spiritually lazy, or worse, have I been working for a goal other than God’s goals for me?
We are called to be humble and cooperative workers in God’s vineyard, bearing fruit for God’s Kingdom. May we be joyful in our labors.