Homily for the Twenty-seventh Sunday, year A.
Jesus said, listen to another parable, which means he has being speaking in parables. In our part of the world, we are very familiar with parables, we as Africans and particularly Nigerians are blessed with that. In many cases, very important messages are passed through parables or proverbs, and these help to preserve the original message from being polluted or diluted.
Jesus taught many lessons in parables, and this morning he says, listen to another parable. There was a man, or if you like a landowner who planted a vineyard. It was a well-equipped one, everything needed to make it successful was provided by the landowner, and he even dug a winepress in it to show how much he expected wine from the vine. The vineyard was set up and leased to tenants who were expected to give the landowner his due at harvest time. And when it was time for harvest, the landowner sent different sets of servant to the tenants, but the servants were seized by the tenants; thrashed them, stoned some and one was even killed. So, the landowner decided to send his only son, thinking that they would at least respect him. But him too they seized and killed. Now, the big question; When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?
Our answer to this question today may be different from the one given by the chief priests and the elders of the people. They answered Jesus saying, He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and leased the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives. But today, considering how violent our society has become, we may be tempted to say that even the landowner would be killed if he dare comes himself. Unfortunately, the story is only a parable meant to teach a lesson.
This parable was originally directed at the chief priests and the elders of the people; however, the end implicates each and every one of us. Jesus concluded the parable by saying, I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
The chief priests and the elders are not the only ones expected to produce the fruits of the kingdom of God, we are all expected to be spiritually and physically productive.
In this parable, the landowner is God. The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel as the prophet Isaiah says in chapter 5:7. The tenants are the chief priests and the elders of the people, while the servants and the son that were manhandled and killed stands for the prophets (ministers of God) and Jesus Christ the Son of God.
The landowner leased his vineyard to his tenants on trust, he expected them to produce fruit, but at the end they betrayed him. The landowner entrusted his vineyard to the tenants just as God has entrusted life to us, he entrusted everything that we have and are to us on trust. Our lives, our gifts and talents, our children, our wealth and everything are entrusted to us. What do we do with them? Are we bearing fruit? What kind of fruit? Is my life style bringing glory to God? If not, then, I am betraying the trust God has for me, like the tenants I am refusing to surrender the produce of the vineyard to the landowner. Unlike the tenants therefore, we are expected to surrender in humility to the power and authority of God; the vineyard belongs to him, our lives belongs to him and that is why St. Paul says in Romans chapter 14:8, that If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. So, we must glorify God with our lives.
Even when the tenants refused to surrender the produce, the landowner was still very patient with them. He sent sets of different servants to the tenants before he eventually sent his Son who was also killed. God is very patient with us, he is patient with us despite our sinfulness. So many people are tempted to take his patience for granted. Remember that even though the landowner gave the tenants the free hand to cultivate the vineyard the way they wanted, he however expected good results. God’s patience is not weakness, he has sent so many different sets of his servants to us to collect his produce, and he even sent his Son. Did we manhandle them? Did we insult them and did we kill them? Let us not forget the question Jesus asked; When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? What will he do to us should he come to find us not ready?
Let us not forget that there is judgement, that judgement day is real. He says he will take the kingdom of God from us if we do not bear good fruit. We are therefore once again challenged to look back into our lives to see where we need to make amends and let the mercy of God purify us.