God's vineyards given to you and me may require creative attention during isolation
by Sister Ann Rehrauer
This weekend the rest of the Church celebrates the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.
For my religious community, Sunday is the solemnity of St. Francis, patron saint of thousands of Franciscan men and women around the world, and patron of those who care for earth. Our readings this Sunday connect us to wisdom from the natural world.
The First Reading and the Gospel use the image of the vineyard – a symbol of God’s people. In the Isaiah passage “the vineyard is the house of Israel and the people of Judah are his cherished plant.” God had done all that could be done for the people, and instead of producing a harvest of justice and good deeds, there was wickedness instead.
I don’t know anything about growing grapes, but research told me that you need the right combination of well-drained soil, enough sunlight, well-timed pruning, enough space to spread, and moderate temperatures to yield a good harvest of table grapes or grapes that produce good wine.
The Gospel picks up the image of the vineyard, as Jesus tells the parable of the landowner who planted and cared for the vineyard (with some of the same language from the Isaiah reading). In this parable, it was not the vineyard that failed – good grapes were produced. But it was the tenants, who were supposed to gather the harvest for the landlord, who failed in their duty. Wicked tenants killed the servants and eventually murdered the owner’s son, rather than hand over what they owed. The chief priests and elders listening to the parable knew that Jesus was speaking of their predecessors who killed the prophets and of the listeners themselves who would eventually take his life.
You and I are both the vineyard and the tenants who care for the vines. We are responsible for producing sweet (or tart) grapes – the fruit of righteousness in our own lives. But we are also in charge of making sure we tend the soil, bask in the sunlight, irrigate our surroundings, and prune what isn’t helpful so we can return a bountiful harvest to God.
In these days when we feel cut off and separated from physical contact with familiar support systems, we need to ponder over WHO and WHAT can provide the things we need at this time to flourish in a spirit of gratitude – and how we can offer these same gifts to others in similar circumstances.