A married couple with five children adopted a young boy who had been allowed to go out on parole from a rehabilitation center. First, they took him on probation under their custody. He was a model boy, so they decided to adopt him. They treated him exactly like one of their own children and asked him to follow the same house rules. One house rule was that he be home by 11 in the evening. One night he did not come home on time; he showed up at one in the morning. The adoptive parents gently told him that they had been worrying about him and asked him to come home on time. The boy said nothing and went straight to bed. The next morning, when the father had gone to work and the children to school, the mother went down to the basement to do the laundry. The adopted son followed her, sneaked from behind, and with an iron bar, struck her in the head and beat her to death. Then he left.
This true story resembles Isaiah’s Song of the Vineyard (today’s first reading) and the parable of the vineyard, in the gospel. The goodness, care and attention showered by the owner on his vineyard failed to produce the expected results. We can feel the owner’s pain and disappointment.
The parable of the vineyard is the second of three so-called “rejection parables” addressed by Jesus to the priests and the elders of the Jewish people in order to berate them for refusing to believe in him. Last Sunday’s parable of the two sons was the first, and next Sunday’s parable of the wedding banquet is the third.
The parable is addressed to us too. Like the people of Israel, we too have been blessed, cherished and cared for by God in many ways. As a nation, God has chosen this country from among all other countries in Asia to be the recipient of the Christian faith. God has blessed it also with rich and abundant natural resources.
On the personal level, we have been endowed with manifold gifts and blessings: our life, our health, a sound mind, our family and friends, our livelihood and, above all, our Christian faith. After counting our blessings, we must ask ourselves: What kind of fruits are we yielding? I don’t think I need to describe the situation our country is in: rampant kidnapping, carnappings, hold-ups, criminality, corruption, drug pushing, etc. In short, lots of wild grapes.
What is it that led the tenants to deny the owner his share of the produce and to kill his men and his own son? Nothing but greed: “Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.” Nothing new, really. Even today, greed is the spark that kindles wars around the world – even those euphemistically called “anti-terrorist wars.” Greed is emptying our nation’s coffers. Greed is behind poor roads and substandard infrastructures. Greed is another name for corruption. Greed is behind kidnappings and acts of violence.
The parable of the vineyard reminds us that we are tenants and administrators, not owners, of God’s goods. We have to administer God’s goods and gifts wisely and responsibly, because one day we will be asked to render an account of our administration, We are also expected to share God’s blessings. God’s share of the produce of his vineyard is that which we give to others.
The word of God being proclaimed in our midst today is like one of the servants, or like one of the prophet of old, sent by the divine Owner of the vineyard to remind us to be responsible administrators. May we heed it and act on it!