Tenants in the Lord’s Vineyard

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

October 8, 2023 – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 21:33-43

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I live in one of the largest states in the USA, the state of Montana. While we have a few medium size cities, most of the state is open land where one can travel for miles and miles and not see a single dwelling, or even a fence. A good part of the state is “owned” by the government, which often labels the land as “public.” That means it is land that can be enjoyed by hikers, hunters and anglers. We also have a wonderful national park (Glacier) where the general rule is this: Take nothing in and take nothing out but good memories, after seeing some of the most beautiful views anywhere.


Yet some feel they have a right to do whatever they want with the land especially if they own it. But they can’t because there are rules established by the government to protect and preserve the land right now, and for the future. We are all familiar with the phrase, “environmental protection.”


This can lead to arguments about ownership and responsibility – an issue that is imbedded in today’s gospel about a vineyard that was owned by a non-resident landlord. He rented his land to tenants who plotted to make the land all their own. If they succeeded, they could keep all the profits earned from the land for themselves. They wanted full control.

Jesus creates this parable to encourage his listeners (and us) to reflect on matters that we might call “ultimate responsibility.” Does the gift of freedom include our doing anything we want? Do we “own” our lives so that we can do whatever we intend? Can we use others simply to meet our own desires? And what about the Earth itself? Is it there to be plundered in accord with our own personal advantage?


In other words, are we totally in charge? Or does all creation (ourselves included) ultimately belong to God? Is not existence itself for all of us (and the whole universe) nothing less than an incredible gift from God? Is not God the one who sustains our life, freedom, joy and love?


Are we then “tenants” assigned to work with God to draw forth a harvest of goodness that is possible in creation as it exists on Earth today? 2000 years back the production of good wine from plump grapes was not easy. The task of pruning the vines, assisting their growth and harvesting their bounty along with all that was needed to create wine was not effortless. Hard work was required. As it is today as we work in the Lord’s vineyard.    


David M. Thomas, PhD

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