#OCCUPY VINEYARD? The Madness of Thinking We Can Possess the Vineyard (Gospel Reflection)

by Gospels

One of the best ways to enrich your experience at Sunday Mass is to pray the Mass Readings personally and to meditate on a Gospel reflection.

A great way of doing this is using the technique of Lectio Divina, a powerful method which we explain here. The following is the Sunday Gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth.

This week, Fr. Piccolo reflects on Matthew 21:33-43, the Gospel reading for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

We hope that it helps you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.

Gospel of the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mt. 21:33-43)

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.  But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

The Gospel of the Lord

Gospel reflection

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Gospel Reflection

It’s embarrassing to admit but, until last year, I had never been to a vineyard. Then my friend Massimo, who is not only a good parish priest but also steadfast farmer, took me to visit his fields. Now I understand much more. The earth teaches you to wait. It does not give in to your personal anxieties. It asks you to take care of it even if it means through great sacrifices. It teaches you about the dawning of the day and also how to bear disappointment, like this year when the frost killed the sprouts just as the broke ground. The earth obligates you to give things order because everything has its place, like the silence between the rows of grapevines.

That day, as I left Fr. Massimo’s fields, I thought about the vineyard; it is a place you go to work, a piece of land to cultivate and care for, but also a place where you learn to find meaning in your life.

The vineyard that Matthew has spoken about in other occasions – about the workers that wait in the marketplace to be hired and the two sons that the father sends to work – reminds us of the Garden of Eden. God creates man and gives a meaning to his life; He puts him in a place – a garden, which is a symbol of relationship – a place he should care for. The same goes for our life: a space is given to us in which we can find meaning, but it is also like a garden that we must cultivate and care for.

In biblical terms, the vineyard is also the symbol of Israel. The vineyard is the earth and the people that God wishes to live amidst it:

He dug it and cleared it of stones,
     and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
    and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
    but it yielded wild grapes. (Is 5:2)

Another symbol of Israel is a large bunch of grapes because it recalls the return of those sent to explore the Promised Land before they entered it. Those men returned with the devastating news of peoples that already inhabited the land, but with marvelous fruits also. It’s as if say that this land – in which we can find the meaning of our lives – must also be a conquest: the Lord is by our side, but we are the ones called into battle.

And in fact, in the stories of the Bible, the vineyard is the place where so many things happen. It is there where love is found as in the Song of Songs (“My vineyard, my very own, is for myself” So, 8:12), but it is also a vineyard that brings about the greed of the King that causes the queen to kill Naboth (1Ki, 21).

Jesus’ parable unveils the common temptation to want to take possession of our lives: though it has been given to us and we have been sent to work in it, we want more; we want to own the vineyard and become our own the masters. On the contrary, Jesus teaches us that life/the vineyard could never become our possession and there will come a day when we are required to give it back and account for what we’ve done with it.

The landowner is a patient man; he knows that the land needs time to give fruit. He is also patient with the tenants, so that they too gave give fruits of conversion. The tenants, to whom the land has been given on a lease, are called to realize that the vineyard does not belong to them. If the landowner has come patiently to call us and invite us to work in his vineyard and give meaning to our days, with the same patience he waits and hopes that we can free ourselves from the temptation of considering the vineyard our personal possession. The landowner knows, since the beginning of creation, that from the moment we start to think of the vineyard as our property, we start to destroy it. The landowner is so patient with us that he not only sends his son, but he expects that the tenants will not kill him. At the end of the day, to the bitter end, God believes in us!

Questions for personal reflection:

  • If your life were a vineyard, what condition would it be in?
  • Are you ready to give your life back to its owner?
Photo by Will Cornfield / Unsplash

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