27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
How beautiful this poem from the prophet Isaiah, and how tragic. The vineyard is the people of Israel, and God loves them so much. He lavishes care upon this vineyard on its fertile hillside, but its response is sour grapes, not wine but vinegar. Not justice but bloodshed, not integrity but distress. And so it will be destroyed.
In the Gospel, Jesus takes up this poem but makes subtle changes. He emphasises the workers who should produce the crop when the owner asks for it but instead abused and murder his servants. In the end the owner of the vineyard sends his own son, convinced that at least they will listen to him because he is the Son. Instead the opposite happens: the workers in the vineyard murder him precisely because he is the landowner's son thinking if they do this the vineyard is theirs. In retelling the story Jesus moves from the simple failure to respond, from vinegar instead of wine and bloodshed instead of justice to something even more profound, not just rejecting God’s law but rejecting God himself. Jesus brings us to the mystery of the cross where he who is God must die for our sins.
If we look at our own lives, at our own countries, at history we see so often, in different ways the rejection of God. We also see whole areas where once the faith was strong, where a great vibrant church of saints flourished but has now disappeared and is remembered only in history books. Think of the Church in North Africa or the Church in Asia Minor. Might not the same thing happen in our time? In Europe especially nations once rich in faith and vocations are now losing their identity and a culture is taking over which is toxic to the faith.
A culture where like the workers in the vineyard men think that they don’t need the owner or his son. They claim the world for their own. I am free to do what I want ( as long as I harm no one else) no one can judge me, I don’t need to God, I am responsible for my own destiny, happiness and salvation is in my own hands.
But what happens isn’t salvation and happiness but as we know just by listening to the news, power, self interest, injustice and exploitation, violence and terror in all its forms grows. Mankind finds himself unhappy or at least unfulfilled in a divided society. The vineyard its seems is ruined.
But it isn’t. That is the great difference in Jesus’ retelling of this story. God’s love revealed in Jesus is too strong.: the vineyard will not be destroyed. While the unfaithful labourers murder the son, the owner of the vineyard does not destroy his vineyard, he entrusts it to others."The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone" . Even the death of Jesus on the Cross does not mean God's defeat. What seems to be a total defeat is in fact the beginning of a definitive victory. We know this going to confession. My utter failure, my sin, my rejection of God is followed by repentance and forgiveness. After the cross comes the resurrection. The vineyard is the Church , the Church is the body of Christ and the body of Christ is in risen glory with the Father.
So even if in some places or some hearts the Church seems to fail and disappears - The vineyard will continue to produce grapes and will always be entrusted with great love "to other tenants who will give him the fruits in due seasons".