“Possession is nine tenths of the law.” There’s such a thing as squatter’s rights. Everyone knows that rent collectors are not welcomed. So, we “Kill the messenger.”
That’s exactly what the tenants did. They killed the messengers who came to collect the rent—the owner of the vineyard sent messengers to collect his share of the produce. The tenants rationalized that if they killed the messengers they could keep the rent and the owner would forget about what they owed him. However, rather than give up on the tenants, the owner gave them the benefit of the doubt. He sent more messengers. After repeated murders, the owner sent his son. We might think, “That was dumb!” Why didn’t the owner keep repeating the same mistake? Why did the owner keep trusting the tenants? Because the owner loved the tenants. We are supposed to fill in the parts left out of the story. There was an original trust between the owner and the people to whom he entrusted his vineyard. The owner must have known the tenants by name, their families, their potential. He left them in complete charge. The tenants also knew the owner. They had experienced his kindness. Obviously, they abused his confidence. They knew the owner’s family. Since they recognized the son, they murdered the son too. In essence, Jesus held up a mirror for the chief priests and the elders. The Lord challenged them to see themselves in the story.
The most difficult part of the Gospel message is to apply the message to ourselves. Countless have said, “Boy, I wish my wife had heard this homily! The words you spoke would certainly help her. I sure wish that my husband had heard you. He really needs to change his life. He’s a mess. I only stay because I feel sorry for him. My neighbors should have been here today. You described them perfectly! My children hold grudges. They really need to learn how to forgive.” “You should publish your homilies. They would help a lot of people.” Why publish when they don’t seem to be making a lot of difference here? They are in the bulletin, but who reads the bulletin or looks at the website? The chief priests and the elders had the same thoughts. They did not suspect that the story that Jesus told was about them. They probably didn’t know any owners of vineyards or tenants. No doubt that they concluded that Jesus was speaking to others. The story was nice and had a good point, but certainly did not apply to them. If the story had applied to them then that would have meant being accountable.
Nobody likes to be accountable, even once a year around income tax time. We are all accountable, even the Holy Father. None of us are the owners. Everything is borrowed. We say, “My son, my daughter, my spouse.” At funerals we are reminded, that we come from God, and we return to Him. God determines when we enter and when we exit. No one owns another human being, not even a slave. At times we act like we do. Peace comes from knowing to whom we belong and where we are going. The old axiom comes to mind, “You can’t take it with you.” Truth is that it was never ours. We are tenants—a difficult reality to grasp. In the Hebrew Scriptures “God gave them a land flowing with milk and honey.” Read the fine print…allowed them to use the land to build the Kingdom of God. We must always be conscious of the owner. “Well, I forgot to pray.” “I missed Mass on a weekend.” “I didn’t have time for the Rosary.” The Good News is that the owner never forgets us. The owner is always mindful of the tenants—sending us messengers—His Word, His angels—His Mother. They all bring the same message—that we are loved without conditions. The proof is that we haven’t been evicted.
We will never get what our sins deserve. The owner continues to trust us. We give the owner all praise—all glory—and our love.