Rev. John Kha Tran

Suppose you go out of town and let your teenage son at home, trusting that he would take care of the house, look after his little brother etc. You came home; however, found out that he had invited his friends over for a party. They drank alcohol and had activities that parents would disapprove. He let his little brother eat whatever he could find even dog food. He and his friends messed up the swimming pool, trashed the backyard. Your neighbour had to call the police because of the noise disturbed the neighbourhood. How should you react to this? You might take away his privileges; no television, no cell phone; no allowances. You would ground your son, no more going out for weekends etc.

Or, you are working hard, bringing money home, letting your spouse to manage the money. You completely trust your spouse to handle the finance. Then one day you have to go overseas on a business trip. You accomplish your project early, and come home sooner than expected. To surprise your spouse, you are just to show up at the door without calling. But to your surprise, you find your spouse in bed with someone else in your own home. How would you react to that? Agnry? Disappointed? File for a divorce? Kick your spouse out of the house? Shoot the other person? Or all of the above?

The Owner

This is what has happened to God. God has a vineyard. He has done everything to protect it and to make it look good. He spades it, clears it of stones, and plants the choice vine. He sets up a fence around it, builds a watchtower. Then he entrusts the caring of the vineyard to his tenants. He looks forward to the crop of grapes. He sends his servants to collect the crop. The tenants however, beat and kill his servants. He sends his son thinking they would respect him. Instead, they decide to kill the son and take over the vineyard.

There might be different reactions to the story. You might feel for the owner of the vineyard. He is let down by his tenants. They betray his trust. You might feel for his servants or his son. They are the go-betweens or intermediaries who always seem to get the main lumps trying to patch things up between two other people. They are just trying to do their job, and unfortunately get killed on duty. You might feel for the tenants. They are poor working class. They feel oppressed, taken advantage of. They feel resentment because they think that they are doing all the work, but receive only unfair portion of the produce. They feel justified to rebel.

No matter whom you may identify with in this parable. The point Jesus wants to make is clear. The vineyard is the world that God has created. God is the owner of the vineyard. His servants and Son are prophets, Jesus Christ and His Church. We are the tenants in this vineyard. God has entrusted the vineyard ot us. And He has the right to expect a good return from all of us.

The Tenants

God created the universe, the earth and everything in it. But He has left the earth with all its variety of creations not totally finished. God has left much to be done, explored, and discovered. He calls humankind to share in His creative power. He we expect good productions. We are the tenants. God has entrusted to us our lives and everything in this world. God endows us with the gifts to bring creation to fulfilment. In the parable, Jesus is presenting us a choice today. We can be loyal or disloyal tenants. As loyal tenants, we are aware that we are not the owner of the vineyard. God is. We are expected to faithfully carry out our duty as tenants taking good care of God’s vineyard. We consider God’s interest is our own interest. God is looking for the crop of good, sweet and juicy grapes. Juicy grapes symbolize holy lives. As loyal tenants, we will work hard to give God what He expects. You and I can be loyal tenants if we want to. We can be holy people. We can be good. We can produce for God the crop of good, sweet and juicy grapes.

We don’t want to be disloyal tenants. Disloyal tenants bring sour and wild grapes. They promote perversity; bring “bloodshed” and “cry.” Jesus explains God’s further disappointment. The tenants people do not want to give the owner good grapes; they want to take over the vineyard. They want to take over the world. They want to control their own lives and their own destiny. They kill the Son. Killing the Son is the act of rejection of God. They do not want to serve God. They do not want to follow God’s policy. They want to establish their own policy. They want to determine their own destiny. And we see this happening in our society today. Many people are killing lives. Many are attempting to put God to death as well.

Modern Killings

We are living in a time when there is very little respect or regard for God and for life. Many people seem to determine to kill life. Life is cheap. We see it every day. Just turn on the television, listen to the radio, read the newspapers, people are being killed everywhere, all over the country, all over the world. A few days ago, a pastor of a Baptist church in Houston was convicted of capital murder. He persuaded his son to kill his wife and was sentenced to life in prison. A teenager can kill another just to get his sneakers. Parents even kill their children because they are inconvenient. Abortions, killing unborn children are a protected right in our country now and in many others around the world. Pope John Paul II, in 1995, issued the Encyclical, “The Gospel of Life,” to alert and decry the whole world that it is living in a society that is promoting a “culture of death.”  The more the culture of death is glorified and promoted, the less God is respected, the less God is given any thought or any consideration. Society is eliminating God from its life. Many government officials are eliminating God’s influence from public policies. Cardinal DiNardo highlighted factors that undermine efforts to build a culture of life: “We face increasing attempts to expunge God and religious discourse from public life. … Some now even seek to eliminate religiously motivated people and organizations from public programs, by forcing them to violate their moral and religious convictions or stop serving the needy,” he said.

The U. S. Catholic Bishops objected to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) requirement to cover all forms of contraception and sterilization as “preventive services for women.” “The decision [by HHS] is wrong on many levels. Preventive services are aimed at preventing diseases (e.g., by vaccinations) or detecting them early to aid prompt treatment (e.g., screening for diabetes or cancer). But pregnancy is not a disease…. Mandating such coverage shows neither respect for women’s health or freedom, nor respect for the consciences of those who do not want to take part in such problematic initiatives.”

Jesus poses a question, "when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" For you and me, We, still have times to choose to be God’s loyal tenants.