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God wants us to enjoy riches of his vineyard

Based on the Gospel of Matthew 21:33-43
Vineyards again. People living in Jesus’ time usually had farms on which they tried to produce everything they needed. There was a kitchen garden (vegetables and herbs) and some sheep for the family’s wool; the women of the family took care of both.

Even the poorest family would have a few grapevines so they could have grapes. Some grapevines were also grown in the courtyards in town. There were also large vineyards with watchtowers from where men guarded the land against vandals. Fig trees, other fruit trees, even olive trees, were planted in the vineyards to enable the grapevines to climb up them and trail along from tree to tree. Grapevines also ran at ground level.

As in the past two Sunday Gospels, Jesus speaks about a vineyard. A vineyard owner rents his vineyard to tenant farmers while he is away on business, asking only that they give him a share of the harvest. At harvest time, the owner sends some servants to collect his share. But the tenant farmers beat one servant, kill another and stone the third.

When the owner sends even more servants to collect his share, they are treated the same way. Finally, the owner sends his own son, thinking they will treat him better. Instead the farmers seize his son and kill him.

In this Gospel, Jesus helps us to understand that God the Father is like the vineyard owner; the vineyard is Israel; the tenants are the chief priests and elders of Israel; the harvest is the joy, hope and peace of God’s kingdom and his continuing loving care; the servants sent to collect the vineyard’s produce are the prophets; and the vineyard owner’s son is Jesus.

The chief priests and elders of Israel were entrusted with God’s law. But instead of leading the people of Israel in virtuous living, they used the law to promote themselves into positions of power. When Jesus came, they rejected his teaching, had no room in their hearts for his message and killed him.

God, in his everlasting love for us, gives us everything we need to enjoy the riches of his vineyard. Most importantly, he sent his beloved Son, Jesus, to show us the way. We’ve been given the precious seed of faith to nurture, the help of his grace and the promise of eternal life in heaven. He leaves it up to us to produce a bountiful harvest of love, goodness, joy, hope and peace in the world around us.