October in wine country, whether it is Burgundy in France or Sonoma in California, is vintage time. Countryside’s are alive with all the colors of autumn leaves and hillsides are weighted with vineyards heavy with fruit. These are memorable sights to behold.
In contrast, the church has begun its slow glide toward the end of the liturgical year. The readings at Mass begin to sound the angel’s trumpet as the focus turns toward the ‘end times.’ There’s urgency to the parables and stories we’ve been having from Matthew that Jesus told in the last week of his life.
The story of the vineyard owner and his mutinous tenants has a perennial ring to it. In his absence, the tenants attempt to take the vineyard from him, bullying and beating his servants before killing his son and heir. Jesus addressed the story to the chief priests and Pharisees who stood listening nearby.
The parable was an indictment against religious leaders who rebelled against God, and can easily be applied to church and state leaders who fail in their stewardship and due service to the people. But to go there would look like the self-affirmation of one finger pointing to another.
Looking at the current ecological crisis through the lens of Pope Francis’ encyclical we could see the vineyard as a metaphor of the Earth, our common home, and the vineyard-owner as a disappointed Creator. Francis tells us that our ‘Sister Earth is crying out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.’
The tenants in the parable had forgotten who they were; they came to believe they were the landlords, entitled to do what they wished with the vineyard and its produce. Listen to Francis commenting on our stewardship of the earth: ‘We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will…..’
The parable ends with the chief priests and Pharisees, blinded by their own importance and power, telling Jesus that the owner should ‘bring those wretches to a wretched end.’ Jesus doesn’t go that far, and softening their verdict, says, ‘The kingdom of God will be taken from you’ and given to a people that will produce its fruit.’
In that spirit, Francis reminds us, ‘The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability o work together in building our common home.’
Francis sees the ecological crisis as a summons to interior conversion and a call to become a people who produce the fruit of God’s kingdom. “Living our call to be protectors of God’s handiwork is not an optional or secondary aspect of our Christian experience,’ he reminds us.
Fr QQ. 10/06/17