27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

07 Oct 2017

Isaiah, in the first reading, compares the people God to a vineyard that has produced bad grapes.  After all the labors—the soil carefully prepared, the location well-chosen, the selected vine stock planted, the boundary set up to keep out the wild animals, the tower and the wine-press—all lovingly prepared by the owner but the vineyard produced only bad grapes.  God has lovingly protected his people and they have rendered only sour grapes, violence and oppression. So, Isaiah prophesies: God will destroy this vineyard.

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The vineyard was not for God and yet he cared for it out of his love. He had chosen a people for himself. But they were unfaithful and they will be destroyed. But later on, Isaiah would tell us of the hope that God will save a remnant and they will rebuild God's chosen people after the destruction.

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The same imagery is used by Jesus in the Gospel with a different emphasis. For Jesus, the problem is not with the vineyard but with the tenant farmers. The vineyard produces grapes and from them wine for drinking. However, the tenants will not give the land owner his due. Such share-cropping arrangements, with the landowner and the tenants divide the produce was a normal agricultural business practice in Jesus’ time. Such arrangements, now as then, are frequently exploitative and unjust. But when the tenants beat up and kill the master’s agents, they don’t complain that they cannot afford the rent and buy clothes for their children. This is not, therefore, a peasant rebellion against the unjust landlord. The tenants’ motive is pure greed. They want the vineyard for themselves. They even kill the owner’s son and heir. Perhaps they think that in the future they can legally claim the vineyard as their own property on the ground that the legitimate owner has abandoned it.

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Many tenants who have received so much kindness personally from God want to monopolize the joy they could give to God and others; and as a result, deprived themselves of any joy they could have. They denied something fundamental, something so important: the owner and the heir who make their life possible. And eventually, the second, the third, the fourth and so on and so forth, chances are exhausted and mercy had to give way to justice.

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 The parable of the wicked tenants in today’s Gospel is a way to teach the Pharisees (and US), that they (and US) have fallen into a twisted sense of right and privilege that did not belong the them.

So when the Son comes on behalf of the “true owner” of the People of God, they are going to reject and kill him, thinking that they can have the property and that somehow everything will return to normal.

 Our Lord today, through the parable, is prophesying the outcome of their greed and envy: everything they thought was theirs will be given to those who will be worthy stewards of God’s gifts!

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