Wanting It All
The Gospel Reading for this Sunday is variously called by different titles: parable of the Vineyard, parable of the Rejected Son, parable of the Wicked or Treacherous Tenants, or simply the parable of the Tenants. In any case, the parable itself, as scholars generally point out, presents allegorically in summary form the history of salvation. The landowner is God and the vineyard is the people of Israel with its privileged position as God’s chosen people (cf Is 5:1-7). The tenants are the religious and political leaders who rejected and maltreated the servants, the prophets, sent by God again and again. The son of the owner of the vineyard is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is the stone that the builders rejected that has become the cornerstone.
The parable of the Wicked Tenants highlights the importance of stewardship. The punishment that came upon the treacherous tenants is a consequence of their failure to acknowledge that they are stewards, not the owners of the vineyard. Stewardship is being entrusted with the care of something. Necessarily, it always entails accountability. In the parable of the Wicked Tenants, this is described in terms of “producing fruits” for the owner of the vineyard.
Throughout the parable, there is an emphasis on the importance of producing or bearing fruit. At the beginning of the parable, the owner sent servants to the tenants “to get his fruit” (v 34). When the wicked tenants failed to produce the fruits, the vineyard is taken away from them and is leased to “other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons” (v 41). At the end, it is the kingdom of God that is give to the “people producing its fruits” (v 43).
A farmer from a rural barangay once asked me, “Father, how do you know when a fruit-bearing tree like a mango tree is dying?” I answered, saying, “To tell you the truth, I really do not know.” His remark to my response was crisp and to the point. He said, “It is really very simple, Father. You know that a fruit-bearing tree is dying when it ceases to bear fruit.”
The need to bear fruit—that applies also to relationships among people. Once a relationship ceases to be fruitful, then it begins to die. That applies, likewise, to discipleship. Once the follower of Jesus stops yielding the “good fruit” that the Lord expects then he ceases to be a disciple.
Aside from their failure to bear good fruits, the wicked tenants in the parable failed in stewardship. They were also guilty of coveting what would have rightly belonged to the owner of the vineyard. For many people, desire is a good motivator in order to achieve goals that have been set and accomplish tasks that have been planned. But when desire means “wanting it all” regardless of the means utilized, then it becomes covetousness. Then, the very motive that moves one to excel becomes an obsession that leads to one’s own destruction.
The fault of the wicked tenants in the parable lies not just in their failure on stewardship but also in their desire to want it all! They decided to kill the son of the owner of the vineyard—”This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance” (v 38). The theologian and spiritual writer, John Shea, incisively remarked: “Wanting it all is a crazy desire born of isolation and fear. Its social face is acquisition and greed. Its psychological face is accusation and defensiveness. Its theological face is the preaching of a God I own rather than a God who owns me.”
Experience tells us that “wanting it all” often leads to misery. A few years back, after Simbang Gabi Masses, I decided to share some apples and oranges to a four-year-old girl. Her smile went from ear to ear. I gave her a second one, and she was pleased as well. Then, I handed her one more which she managed to hold by pressing it against her breast. Then, I gave her a fourth apple which fell because she lost grip of it. What was her reaction? She cried! More than losing that fourth apple, the little girl lost her joy. That is how it usually ends when we want it all. As in the case of the wicked tenants in today’s parable, when we want it all, we end up losing it all.
By: Fr. Victor S. Nicdao
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