A foundational quality of a good leader, whether he or she be a political or religious leader, would be that they are seeking the best interest in those they serve, they seek to be good stewards. Unfortunately, self interest is a tremendous temptation. For how long are they willing to approach the position as one who is willing to serve instead of be served? Another important attribute in a leader is are they open to criticism and guidance when they are in need to hear it?
Jesus in today’s parable, presents a landowner who turns his vineyard over to tenant farmers. They are to oversee the crops to bring about a productive yield of grapes come harvest time. Unfortunately: “When vintage time drew near, he [the owner] sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned” (Mt 21:34-35). Eventually, the owner sends his own son, and the tenants kill him.
Jesus is offering this parable as a mirror to the leadership, the chief priests and Pharisees, of Israel. The vineyard is an image used to represent Israel. Clearly the owner is God, and the tenant farmers are those in leadership positions overseeing the care of Israel. We do not know which leaders hearing this parable took it to heart and changed their minds, repented from their self centered focus. We do know that there were those who carried out exactly what Jesus laid out in the parable. There were those, who following political and religious leaders of the past, persecuted, beat, and killed the prophets, and would do the same to Jesus.
Jesus called for the people of Israel in his time to rise up and actualize the potential of their covenant relationship and faithfulness in serving God. He still does so today. We are a part of this heritage. We who bear the name of Christian are “spiritual Semites” as Pope Paul VI has stated. We have an intimate relationship with our brothers and sisters in the faith of Abraham and are also given the responsibility of being good stewards.
Pope Francis offers a way of leading that we can aspire to from one of our brothers from the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Bartholomew, the Patriarch of Constantinople: “He [Bartholomew] asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which ‘entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion'” (Laudato Si, 9).
Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew offer us a glimpse of authentic leadership. All of us on this earth are stewards, whether people of faith or no faith, and we need to resist the temptation of the tenants from today’s parable who sought to grasp at what was not theirs and embraced the deadly sin of envy. Instead may we be open to receive what we have been entrusted with and care for the gift of the earth, all life upon it, and one another.
Photo: Torrey Pines State Reserve, La Jolla, CA 2014 visit
Link for the Mass readings for Friday, March 2, 2018: