This is the third Sunday in a row that Jesus uses the image of a vineyard.
Today, we hear the story about a vineyard that a landowner leases to tenants.
Instead of handing over the fruits of the harvest to the landowner’s servants, the tenants beat and kill them.
Jesus uses this parable to foreshadow his own death when he says, “Finally, (the landowner) sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ Instead, they seized the son, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.”
When we listen to Jesus’ parables, we need to remember that they are addressed to us today, just as they were addressed to those who heard them the first time – in this case, to the chief priests and the elders.
Jesus tells them / tells us “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
What is this fruit that Jesus speaks of?
A little later in Matthew’s gospel Jesus will spell it out clearly: when the Son of Man returns, we will be judged on how we cared for the poor and the vulnerable, for “whatever you did for one of the least brothers (and sisters) of mine, you did for me.” (25:40)
If we desire to be the people of God and tend the vineyard of the Lord, we must put our faith into action and produce the fruits of the kingdom. This was the message of the parable we heard last Sunday.
Jesus wants to make sure we are not missing his message.
Now that we know what we are being called to do, how then do we do it?
St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians.
Pursue “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious…Keep on doing what you have learned and received…Then the God of peace will be with you.”
Sisters and brothers, in these challenging times, as we daily deal with the many changes in our lives that have been caused by the corona virus, as we see the difficult circumstances that many are facing, we have the opportunity to produce good fruit as we reach out in love and concern, to our loved ones and to strangers, to be instruments of Christ’s love and care.
Pope Francis, in his new encyclical “All Brothers and Sisters”, released today on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, reminds us “… in r=the face of present day attempts to eliminate or ignore others, we may prove capable of responding with a new vision of fraternity and social friendship.”
Let us never forget the test of whether or not we are living the gospel – “whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me.”