– Friday of the 2nd Week of Lent –
‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ [Matthew 21:33-40]
Jesus continues his attempt to expand his listeners’ understanding of God and their relationship with God. Their view of God is being challenged, as is their idea of ‘who is in and who is out’, what it is that God requires of them, and how it is that God’s plan will be achieved.
Today Jesus is teaching his listeners that they are not in charge: the ‘landowner’ and his son are. The implication is that the tenants are there by invitation and can stay as long as they fulfil what is required of them.
It can be a galling thought. As products of the contemporary West, we like to imagine that we have a significant degree of autonomy and what we do and how we go about it, is entirely up to us. This is only true to a certain extent. The thought that we have a master seems very old fashioned and, perhaps, at least a little offensive.
Realising that we are not in charge impacts on the way we relate to the faith to which we belong. We receive faith as a gift so that we might pass it on to others. This is the fruit that the master expects. He is willing to assist us in growing this fruit, but we must be willing to ask his assistance. From there we are to understand that, by his invitation, it is in his kingdom that we work. The lazy tenant, who thinks he owns the outfit, does not fare very well in this story.
By Shane Dwyer