27th Sunday in Ordinary Time A20
The readings from Isaiah and the Gospel of Matthew are remarkably similar. Was Jesus guilty of plagiarism? Or was he, as the Word of God, the source of inspiration for Isaiah? No matter. We leave those questions to Scripture scholars.
Whether it’s Isaiah’s friend or Jesus’ landowner, they did all they could in preparation for a bountiful harvest. But something went horribly wrong. In the friend’s case, it yielded wild grapes out of neglect rather the cultivated ones which were much sweeter to the taste and could be eaten fresh, dried out to become raisins, or pressed to make wine. In the landowner’s story, it was the treachery and violence of the tenants who were supposed to be stewards of the vintage for him.
In both parables the friend and the landowner is God. In both cases, God would do something as a consequence of the lack of good fruit.
In one case, the vineyard would be left to ruin. And, when Jesus asked the chief priests and the elders his question, they answered by saying the owner would do to the tenants as they had done to the owner’s emissaries (the prophets) and his son (Jesus), thereby condemning themselves. But Jesus countered with another plan: God would take away the kingdom from them and give it to a people that would produce its fruit.
Let’s take a look at both parables from another viewpoint: the creation story found in the first three chapters of Genesis. God has created a world and everything in it which he pronounces good. Human beings are created to tend and make it a home where they will live in harmony with each other, with nature and God. We know what happened. The divine plan was derailed by human disobedience. It resulted in stealing, lies, jealously, and then finally murder. Instead of the stewardship of creation in partnership with God, there is neglect and domination of what was a gift.
How are we doing as stewards of creation today?
I saw DOT workers the other day picking up bags and bags of trash on Rte. 2 that people carelessly threw from their cars. We’ve had a day to clean our waterways of tires, shopping carts, mattresses, even refrigerators (!) and other large items as well as other throw-a-ways that are replaced every year with more of the same, tons and tons of trash. Does anyone know somebody who has been ticketed for littering? We’ve clean-cut forests, dug out mines and quarries and then abandoned them without a thought to what will happen in the future.
I know there’s controversy about climate change and what or who causes it, but polar caps are melting, storms have been larger and more frequent, droughts more prevalent, sunburns more painful, and viruses more deadly.
As Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si, earth “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her”.
God’s vineyard is suffering mismanagement and neglect. Our partnership with God on care for our common home has been seized by its “wicked tenants”, i.e. all of us in one form or another.