I am nothing; I am but an instrument, a tiny pencil in the hands of the Lord with which He writes what he likes. However imperfect we are, he writes beautifully. - Mother Teresa
(Gospel Text: Mt 21:33-43, 45-46)
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he 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. 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. 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.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them. And although they were attempting to arrest him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.
Stewardship is an assessment of faithfulness. When we are given responsibility to care for something that belongs to another, we are given more than a task, we are given a test. One key aspect of stewardship that our Lord brings out in this parable is that stewardship does not only involve the given area of responsibility but the outcome, the fruit.
When I was in Boy Scouts, I had a tough time with tree identification. I could not keep all of the bark and leaf differences straight. However, if there was fruit on the tree, I knew immediately. I could pick out the fruit! When you see an apple, you know you are looking at an apple tree; the same with a pear, orange and so on. We know because the fruit is truly the "outward expression of the inward essence" of the tree, bush, plant, etc. Good fruit can only be produced if we have made it possible for the branches that bear the fruit are fully and effectively connected to the trunk, so that the essential life of the vine can be received.
In our gospel passage today Jesus pointed out something very important. The tenants of the vineyard lost sight of the fact that God was the owner of the vineyard and they were merely stewards. As vinedressers, they were called to care for the vineyard but the fruit of the vine was His.
Throughout the history of man and yes, even today, people refuse to listen to leaders like the Pope who are sent by God to restore order and ownership. If you don’t believe me, simply look around you. What kind of “fruit” do you see being produced these days in our schools, governments around the world, and families?
Just like when I was in Boy Scouts, if the tree was producing good fruit, we could tell what kind of tree it was. Conversely, if “wild grapes” were being produced, even a 12 year old Boy Scout could conclude, there was something wrong!
Maybe it’s about time we all start to listen. I think it’s safe to say that no one wants, “The Kingdom of God to be taken away and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”(Mt 21:43)