The Philippines is an agricultural country. As such, a lot of its people are in one way or the other connected to the land, either from handed-down land or from ancestors working out of it. The desire to plant the earth also makes people go into farming after working long years in corporate environments.I have friends who did that after retiring from work. The serenity and quiet of the countryside is an inspiration for weary souls aching to have those moments away from the hustle and bustle of urban work.
The Gospel setting this Sunday (Mt. 21: 33-43) — the vineyard — as described by the Prophet Isaiah (First Reading Is. 5: 1-7), is used by the Lord Jesus to describe the vineyard’s wine press, hedge, and watchtower telling that Israel’s religious leaders, the tenants in His parable, have learned nothing from Isaiah or Israel’s past.
“When vintage time drew near, the landowner 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. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way.”
Instead of producing bountiful harvests, they’ve killed the owner’s servants, the prophets “sent to gather the harvest of faithful souls”. God is portrayed as the owner while Israel is the vineyard. A favorite vine, the “chosen people” squandered the chance that God wanted for them. (cf: Catholic Daily Reflections)
“Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.”
This parable tells of the reality of evil. In places where agriculture is the main source of livelihood, people are always on alert to watch their farm, and the owners normally assign those whom they trust to take care of their landholdings. In the Gospel story, upon hearing of the news the landowner in the parable must be so shocked. The Lord said,
“What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
The response is quite frightening to say the least but it also means that evil will be met with strength and courage of the Holy Spirit. In the course of our mission and work, there may be times we feel the wrath of God Almighty is the only answer when confronted with evil.
This is the challenge for us to stay the course, to stay fruitful in the vineyard of God. In all these, we need to pray unceasingly to the Holy Spirit for guidance, protection and strength.
Let us not be afraid, but be comforted by the words of St. Paul in the Second Reading (Phil. 4:6-9),
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Today, let us reflect on the situations when we are confronted with evil in the course of our daily life.
Lord God, grant me the grace, courage and strength to confront evil when necessary, according to Your Holy Will. Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God, I trust in You.
“I have chosen you from the world, says the Lord, to go and bear fruit that will remain.” (Jn. 15: 16)