THE First Reading (Isaiah 5:1-7) and the Gospel (Matthew 21:33-43) talk about the common theme of an owner taking good care of his vineyard before entrusting it to tenants. When harvest time drew near the owner sent his servants to collect his share of the produce, but one after another, these were killed by the tenants. The owner then sent his own son, but even this one, the wicked tenants cast out of the vineyard and killed. Consequently, the owner came, took the tenants’ lives, and entrusted his vineyard to others who would give him the fruits in their season.
Easily, we can see the representations behind this parable. The owner is God. The owner’s son is Jesus. The vineyard is the kingdom of God. The first tenants were the Israelites. The servants sent to collect the produce were the prophets, and the new tenants are the Church.
As the first tenants of God’s vineyard, the Israelites were plucked by the Lord himself out of their slavery in Egypt. By his loving arms, he led them to the Promised Land where he poured out on them the choicest of blessings. However, instead of obeying God in their times of prosperity, the Israelites repeatedly rebelled against the Almighty. They failed to produce the fruits of righteousness but rather dwelt in sin and filth.
In his longsuffering, God sent Israel one prophet after another, attempting to call the nation back to his fold. Despite this, the Israelites refused to repent. They continued to dwell in sin and either killed or maltreated God’s prophets. Then, in the fullness of time, God sent his only begotten Son Jesus Christ, but even he was not accepted. Israel’s religious leaders did not believe in him, and fueled by this unbelief, caused him to be crucified.
Israel’s rejection of the Messiah ushered in the time of the Gentiles – our own time. Now, salvation is being offered not only to the Jews but also to peoples of all nations and races. Now, anyone who truly believes in Jesus in word and in deed will not perish but will have eternal life. In this new dispensation, believers are given the privilege of serving as the new tenants of God’s vineyard, from whom the Lord expects to see the fruits of a living faith.
Living faith is not all about empty rhetoric or lip service. It is a genuine recognition of God, the true owner of the vineyard, and offering him the worship that he deserves. Living faith produces changed lives, bearing fruits of holiness, righteousness, obedience and Godly love as evidence. Only through this living faith can we be found worthy of the landowner’s trust in cultivating his vineyard.