We are workers in the Lord's vineyard. We can't be working just for ourselves.

Sunday, 10/2/11

The First Reading and the Gospel today picture the church as a vineyard in which God has hired men to work. In the story those caretakers misused the owner’s trust.  Instead of presenting him with the full vintage, they kept it for themselves, roughing up, even killing, those the owner sent for the grapes.

If you think about it, the parable does not make sense. I mean: why would the owner have hired those vine dressers without first checking on their reputationsy? And, if they were men with good reputations, why would they have risked those reputations by suddenly turning criminal?

Looking for answers to this it might help to consider the special Jewish laws governing vineyards. There was a law that forbade farmers growing different kids of crops on the same land. They saw it as vegetative adultery. In the case of vineyards the Jewish scribes allowed an exception to the rule against vegetative adultery. Since from the year a vineyard was planted four years had to pass before the first vintage could be harvested, the scribes allowed other crops to be grown between the rows of vines in those years. 

Now the people listening to Our Lord’s story might have understood the workmen to have been claiming their right to the adulterous vegetables grown between the vines those first four years. They may have been keeping the new grapes that were not good enough for wine. 

Jesus might have aimed his parable at the Pharisees and chief priests. They were using God’s vineyard, the Jewish Religion, to make themselves rich, while they ignored God’s prophets, and planned to kill his son. He might have meant the parable for church leaders today who cash in on their positions in the church without really giving God his due. 

It isn’t stretching the meaning of his parable as seeing it as telling parents that they are just caretakers of God’s vineyards. If I think of the ten of us sitting down for dinner in the house where I grew up, I can remember my mother and dad leading us in saying grace, letting us know they were trustworthy workers in the vineyard of the Lord.

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