In today’s Gospel from Mark 12:1-12, Jesus shares the parable of the man building a vineyard and leasing it out to tenant farmers. “At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard.” Unfortunately, not only did the tenants not offer the produce due, they beat the servant and sent him back empty handed. This pattern was repeated, the owner sent servants, who were beaten and even killed, and then he even sent his son, thinking that they would respect him, but they killed him as well, thinking that then the inheritance would be theirs. Jesus ended the parable with an account of the swift retribution of the tenant farmers by the owner and the redistribution of the vineyard to others. The chief priests, the scribes, and the elders realized that the parable Jesus told was directed at them.
The leaders that Jesus shared this parable with were not happy about being compared to the wicked tenant farmers. This only deepened their resolve to arrest and persecute him. Would that the parable have been an opportunity to see that they were indeed like the tenants in that they were not being faithful stewards of God’s chosen people, and instead of digging in their heals, repented from their ways of turning their back to the will of God.
We who read Parable of the Tenants may be quick to judge the whole lot of them: the stewards, chief priests, scribes, and elders, but let us resist that temptation. What does this parable say to us? How have we been good stewards of that which God has given to us, including our self? A common mantra is that this is my body and I can do whatever I want with it. Though this may be a popular cry of individualism and self autonomy, it is not biblical.
All that we have is a gift from God, including our life and our very being. Each of us are a unique wonder to behold, while at the same time we are not our own to do with as we please. Our knee jerk and sometimes visceral reaction against this notion and choice instead to embrace a more radical individualism is that we want to be in control of our life. We believe that we know better, that we know what will make us happy and what will fulfill us, we want to give in to our pleasure, passions, and wants. Discipline is a dirty word. Our reaction also comes from our wounds, and our living in a fallen world where those we have put up on pedestals: our leaders, religious, political and familial, have time and again all fallen off and let us down.
This will continue to be the pattern unless we are willing to let go of our attachment to the things of this world, including our own self aggrandizement, and support of cults of personality. Let us instead look to the things of heaven. What will truly make us happy, what will fulfill us, is embracing who we are called to be: co-redeemers with God. God has given each of us gifts to better his kingdom. We are to be good stewards and bear fruit that will last.
The best way that we can begin this process is to acknowledge that we are stewards and not the owner, God is God and we are not. God has sent his Son to us. He has come to lead us to all that is Good, all that is True, all that is Beautiful. He is also the only one we can count on. We need to place our trust in Jesus first, so when others fall, we do not fall with them and/or despair, because none of us are perfect. Each of us have our strengths as well as our weaknesses. May we be there to empower each other, to utilize our gifts and our strengths, and allow others to empower us in our weakness. Let us be good stewards to one another.
Photo: JoAnn and I on a Christmas hike, 2010, taking turns carrying the food backpack. Photo credit – Jack McKee
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, June 4, 2018: