I read recently in a Catholic publication a piece that was Inspired and adapted from The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena which came to mind when I read today’s Gospel.
Imagine that just before a soul begins his or her earthly journey, God takes the soul by the hand and points out a certain place on earth. God then explains to the about-to-be-conceived:
“This is going to be your piece of the vineyard. It will be yours to make of it whatever you can. All I ask is that you work it as best you can and get the most out of the soil and the shoots I give you. If you produce grapes that become the choice wine of reconciliation and justice, great; if you only have enough water and nutrients to produce a few grapes that make a small amount of the sherry of humility and kindness, good; if you only have enough time to plant a few seeds or start a few vines that others can bring to a full harvest, you’ll have done well.”
But God cautions: “Just don’t make the mistake that too many of my tenants make. They get too caught up in the number of grapes that they can coax from the vines. My vineyard is about harvesting good grapes, not amassing profits.
“Remember, too, that you are responsible for the part of the vineyard I give you. Don’t exhaust the grapes you harvest for yourself alone and then leave nothing behind but a dried, hollow tangle of dead vines for the next grower. I will demand a price for what you produce — and what you squander.
“Keep in mind,” God the vineyard owner continues, “that everyone has his or her own piece of the vineyard. But there are no dividing lines, no fences, no property markers. Your part of the vineyard is joined to your neighbour’s — so you can do neither good nor evil in your vineyard without affecting the people next to you and the vines around you.”
Finally, God says: “One more thing. And I don’t mean to harp on this, but it is my vineyard. Not yours. I’m giving you a piece of it because that’s what being God is all about. An occasional thank you would be nice. But the moment you think this vineyard is yours or that you deserve more and better, your vineyard will become a very unhappy and unproductive place.
“So, go to it.” And then God breathes that soul into a human embryo, and another adventure begins.
Today’s parable of the wicked tenants is played out in our own time and place whenever an unjust business practice, a socially irresponsible decision or a morally indefensible act is called out. Too often we view this “vineyard” God has given us as ours alone, and we will manipulate it, abuse it, and exhaust it to satisfy our own needs and pleasure, and like the tenants in the today’s parable, we find some way to cut down whoever challenges us or calls us accountable. Christ the “vineyard owner’s son” comes with a new vision for the vineyard we only “lease” from his Father: a vision of love rather than desire, of peace rather than hostility, of forgiveness rather than vengeance.