“When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?”
Today’s “Parable of the Landlord and the Tenant” describes a landlord who leases his healthy vineyard to tenants. The tenants abuse the vineyard and anyone whom the landlord sends to remind them of their responsibilities. It is easy to interpret the parable only as Jesus’ incrimination of the Pharisees or those who tried to extinguish his message. But as Sr. Mary McGlone of Celebration explains, “Parables aren’t puzzles to be understood, but calls to action crafted to make us uncomfortable enough to change our ways.” In this parable, therefore, the tenants aren’t meant to be some abstract “others” who lived long ago, but are meant to lead us to examine our own attitudes and behaviours toward our responsibilities of worldly stewardship.
This past year has given many examples of how this simple parable is still relevant today. When outcries of the “#MeToo” or “Black Lives Matter” movements are met with violent resistance, it shows me that the vineyard of our shared humanity still has a long way to go before God’s plan of justice and equality are realized. When I read how activist Greta Thunberg and our own Minister of the Environment, Catherine McKenna, have continued to receive threats of violence and death because they advocate environmental responsibility, I wonder if the modern tenants of God’s vineyard understand that their own well-being is intimately tied to their responsible use of the vineyard? Even Covid-19 has demonstrated to me how simple attitudes indicate my own lack of committed stewardship of God’s kingdom. Am I any different than the tenants of the parable when I ignore health recommendations to use a mask because I don’t like the way it steams up my glasses, or feel that my desire to gather with friends without taking recommended precautions is more important than the risk of infecting those more vulnerable around me? Any time we act as though we are the only masters of our environment or deem our wants more important than the well-being of others, we are living with the same attitudes of the tenants of today’s parable. We too, ignore God’s plan for the vineyard and abuse the dignity of the people God has sent and entrusted to do his will.
The “Parable of the Landlord and the Tenants,” happens to fall on the final Sunday of this year’s month-long celebration of the “Season of Creation.” This annual time within our liturgical year evolved out of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si: On the Care for our Common Home,” and is meant to promote prayer and action to protect our shared earth and humanity. This encyclical, “called upon not only Catholics all over the world, but the entire global community to recognize how every person is profoundly connected and dependant on one another, as well as on the natural world in which we all live.” (CCCB 01/06/20)
We are all tenants of God’s marvellous vineyard, and as tenants, we have been entrusted to become responsible stewards of that vineyard and of all who work and live in that vineyard. The well-being of all, depends upon our ability to respect and nourish all that God has gifted us.