To visit Napa Valley or Sonoma is an educational experience. Interesting to see row after row of grapevines. After the grapes are harvested they are fermented in huge barrels. White, red, rosé wine is bottled and distributed around the world. The vineyards have been owned and operated by families for hundreds of years.
Imagine what would happen if the workers would suddenly tell the owners that they were now in charge. Without warning the workers would mistreat the supervisors—kill some—tie them up—and take over the administration of the vineyard. Not many owners would give such workers are second chance. The police would be called. The workers might end up in jail, certainly released from their employment. Trust is lost when folks abuse the owner. The story Jesus told is different. The workers abused the trust of the landowner by mistreating and killing the servants who came to collect the produce. However, the landowner did not call the police; did not put them in jail. He gave them another chance. And another chance. The landowner sent his own Son. The ungrateful tenants killed the Son. Doesn’t take a lot of brains to figure out that Jesus was speaking about God the Father who is the landowner, the Prophets who were the servants sent to the tenants and were ignored, mistreated and killed. And the Son, who is Jesus Himself. The listeners of the story were the chief priest and the elders of the people. However, the story is repeated. We are the ones listening now. Where do we fit? What character(s) best describe our situation? Anywhere we choose the story is uncomfortable. The drama is full of tension from start to finish. Obviously Jesus intended to speak the truth. The truth often makes us uncomfortable.
The Gospel is like looking in a mirror. The mirror, like most cameras, never lie. Close ups are not always preferable. Most movie stars want the cameras to back up, especially if they are chronologically gifted. Pimples, blackheads, wrinkles are discouraging. Yet, when we can look beyond the surface level, usually into the eyes, we can see the potential of the soul. When we see ourselves, really see ourselves, we are supposed to see the face of Christ. To remember that we are created in God’s image and likeness is to remember who we are—sons and daughters of God. The image is distorted when we do not like ourselves—when we have a low self-esteem.
The consequence is that we cannot like anybody else. We cannot accept love or give love if we have no self-love. The ungrateful tenants in the vineyard had no self-love. That’s the reason that the story has a warning. Whatever evil came upon the tenants was their own doing. They shut the door on the landowner’s mercy. Death was the result. Death is the same as sin. To be thrown out of the vineyard—outside of relationship with the landowner is to die. We are supposed to be a lot smarter than the folks who first heard the story. 2,000 years of evangelization should have made a difference. We know that we have countless chances for repentance. To think that we can live apart from the landowner; that we do not need Him, or His forgiveness means death. Time to behave ourselves. We are called to savor each day in order to produce fruit. Negativity is all around. Our vocation is to spread the Good News that can be found in giving our life to Jesus Christ.
We are the faithful tenants trying to do our best to be grateful for the unconditional love of the landowner. He has sent us His Son. We welcome the Son with open arms and realize that in Him lies our salvation.