FRIDAY HOMILY: Stewards of the Vineyard
were not willing to share the fruit with the true owner. Even when the owner sent his servants to retrieve the produce, they were not only turned away but killed. Even the owner's son met with a similar fate.
Throughout Israel's history, she has refused to listen to leaders and prophets alike who were sent by God to restore order and ownership. At the time of this telling, the end of the parable was yet to be experienced but would be soon. The son, Jesus Christ himself, would soon die as well.
Stewardship is an assessment of faithfulness. When we are given responsibility to care for something that belongs to another, we are given more than a task, we are given a test.
After being entrusted with the spiritual life of the children of Israel, their leaders did not prove to be trustworthy but often used the resources for their own devices. God had even given them all they needed to succeed; He offered them several advantages, symbolized by the hedge, the winepress and the tower.
There was a hedge, which allegorically could be understood as the law and God's protection. There was a winepress, the vat where the juice of the grapes was kept, which might be seen as the life of Israel as a nation. Then there was the tower, a place where watchers could keep vigil and be ready to defend the vineyard.
Our Lord made it abundantly clear that the nation had not taken advantage of these gifts from God and thus, the vineyard would be entrusted to others.
The lesson on stewardship is one that ought to be learned on multiple levels. Whenever we are given a trust from another, we are called to represent the owner's intent not necessarily our own. As Jesus taught us in another parable: ".if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own?" (Lk. 16:12)
One key aspect of stewardship that our Lord brings out in this parable is that stewardship does not only involve the given area of responsibility but the outcome, the fruit. Using the vine motif, we could be given care of the property and even keep it safe from intrusion. However, if the winepress is empty, nothing has been accomplished.
Many years ago a member of my staff had problems getting things done. This happened on a number of occasions. At the time I had a mentor who was helping understand the dynamics of leadership. He gave me an interesting piece of advice, "You can make a faithful man able, but you can't make an able man faithful."
He was making the point of trustworthiness in stewardship. Having the ability to get the job done is not enough; one has to be faithful, as a steward, to actually carry through.
As I'm writing this, the Church has moved into a very unique time, "Sede Vacante," "the chair is empty." I paused long enough between activities today to watch the Holy Father leave the Vatican by helicopter. Then, a few hours later, we watched as the Papal Doors were closed. The future of the Church - the stewardship of the vineyard - is now in the hands of the Cardinals who will prayerfully determine who is to be the next Pope.
During this time of awaiting the next man who will wear the shoes of the fisherman, I'm reminded of a statement made by Pope Benedict during his Palm Sunday Homily in 2009.
"An upright life always involves sacrifice, renunciation. To hold out the promise of a life without this constant re-giving of self is to mislead. There is no such thing as a successful life without sacrifice."
May our future Pope bear these marks of a sacrificial life.
When I was in Boy Scouts, I had a tough time with tree identification. I could keep all of the bark and leaf differences straight and had problems naming the various varieties during one of our hikes. However, if there was fruit on the tree, I knew immediately. I could pick out the fruit!
When you see an apple, you know you are looking at an apple tree; the same with a pear, orange and so on. We know because the fruit is truly the "outward expression of the inward essence" of the tree, bush, plant, etc.
The wild grapes that were coming forth came from neglect and non-interest. Without careful pruning and cultivating, there was no guarantee of the quality of the wine that would come forth. Being wild, we really don't even have confidence of knowing what vine they belong to.
There could be any number of variations in the outcome. Obviously, Isaiah and Jesus, in his reference to the prophet, were speaking of fruit that was sour and bad.
As St. Paul reminds us - when we're talking about the fruit - the outward essence - of the working of God, we are able to taste love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; the fruit of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-23)
For the Church, who has the responsibility of the care of souls, this is the kind ...
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Church, vine, vineyard, Pope Benedict, Stewardship, faithfulness, fruit
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