Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Fr. Randy Sly

10/5/2014 (2 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Faithful Stewardship of the Fruit and the Vine

In our Gospel passage for today, Jesus parallels the prophetic words of Isaiah with his own words of warning. Obviously, the vineyard is still bringing forth wild grapes and the Son of God is announcing that a change is coming.

Highlights

By Fr. Randy Sly

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/5/2014 (2 months ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Church, vine, vineyard, Pope Benedict, Stewardship, faithfulness, fruit, Fr Randy Sly


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - The vine has always been a strong symbol for Judaism as well as the Church. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel saw themselves as the vine of God.

The psalmist wrote: "You have brought a vine out of Egypt; you have cast out the nations, and planted it. You prepared room for it, and caused it to take deep root, and it filled the land.

This was confirmed by their prophets, such as Isaiah, who wrote, "For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant." (Is. 5:7)

Hosea makes the same claim. "Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased the more altars he built; as his country improved he improved his pillars." (Hos 10:1)

Talking about Israel as God's vine wasn't always positive. As Isaiah prophesied, "Now let me sing to my well-beloved a song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:

"My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; so He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes." (Is. 5:2, 7)

A warning follows that description attended by a series of woes.

"And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. What more could have been done to My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; and break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned or dug, but there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain on it."

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.
(Is. 5:3-7)

In our Gospel passage for today, Jesus parallels the prophetic words of Isaiah with his own words of warning. Obviously, the vineyard is still bringing forth wild grapes and the Son of God is announcing that a change is coming.

"Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.' So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.

"Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?"

They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons."

Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures:
'The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord's doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes'?


"Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it."

Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

In the times of Jesus, the idea of the vine and vineyard remains a strong image of a nation. The temple, in fact, contained huge images of the vine on its exterior. The Jewish historian, Josephus, describes it: "The gate opening into the building was, as I say, completely overlaid with gold, as was the whole wall around it. It had, moreover, above it those golden vines, from which depended grape-clusters as tall as a man"

It had been maintained for centuries as a symbol of their chosenness by God. Their identity, for obvious reasons, was wrapped up in the profound reality that they were the elect vine of the living God.

Jesus pointed out another important aspect, however. They had lost sight of the fact that God was the owner of the vineyard and they were merely stewards. As vinedressers, they were called to care for the vineyard but the fruit of the vine was His.

In this parable, the comparison is clear. The vineyard of Israel had been taken over by greedy vinedressers who 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.

True Stewardship
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. 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."

True Fruit
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 of fruit we ought to see coming forth from our little part of the vineyard. If wild grapes are being produced, there is something wrong!

Good fruit can only be produced if we have made it possible for the branches that bear the fruit are fully and effectively connected to the trunk, so that the essential life of the vine can be received.

True Vine
One of the most startling changes in God's vineyard was revealed by Jesus as He left the Upper Room and headed to the Garden of Gethsemane. Passing close to the Temple in Jerusalem, with its prominent golden vine, Jesus uttered these words, "I am the true vine."

What a statement for the disciples to hear! For millennia, Israel had established covenants with the living God that established the vineyard. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob all were a part of that very old trunk. Now, Jesus, who was joined to them in His humanity, adds something new.

God now begins something new and fresh with Him. Partly of the old vineyard, God the Son invites a direct relationship where the sap of the vine is the Spirit Himself, allowing divine life to flow through the branches - the people of His Church. We are now invited to experience a personal relationship with God Himself; we are being called to ascend into Him.

The law will no longer be needed as a hedge or wall around us, for it will be placed within our hearts to govern us. As Ezekiel prophesied, "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." (Ez. 36:27) This will now become an inside job where fruit of our lives will not come only by conformity but as a part of our essence.

The Church, built on the cornerstone of Jesus Christ, with Peter as our rock, has continued now for many centuries bringing forth the fruit of the vineyard for the life of the world.

The temple was destroyed in 70AD and with it, the golden vine disappeared as a sign. For us as Christians, we see the vineyard continuing to flourish, having been given over to another.

Throughout history there have been problems and issues; of that there is no doubt. Sometimes the vineyard looks like it is in need of some repair. Yet, God has been faithful to raise up in history those who would bring guidance and direction that the vines would again be pruned and that godly fruit would be borne on its branches.

In 2006, Saint John Paul II shared these words in a homily: The Church herself, then, is the vine in the gospel. She is mystery because the very life and love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the gift gratuitously offered to all those who are born of water and the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 3:5), and called to relive the very communion of God and to manifest it and communicate it in history (mission): "In that day", Jesus says, "you will know that I am in my Father and you in me, and I in you" (Jn 14:20)

We are living out that communion together as the Vine of God. Through Him, and conveyed by His sacraments of love, we are made new and the fruit we bear on our branches can be a message of life to the world.

-----
 
Father Randy Sly is a priest with the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (http://usordinariate.org) established by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, through the Apostolic Constitution "Anglicanorum Coetibus." He is currently the chaplain of the St. John Fisher Ordinariate Community, a priest in residence at Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church and Director of Pro-Life Activities for the Ordinariate.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2014
Christmas, hope for humanity:
That the birth of the Redeemer may bring peace and hope to all people of good will.
Parents: That parents may be true evangelizers, passing on to their children the precious gift of faith.



Comments


More Living Faith

No one should be hungry during the Christmas season

Image of

By Tony Magliano

In early December, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) stopped feeding 1.7 million Syrian refugees. For two weeks these poor, battered fellow human beings who had fled the misery of civil war, and the barbarism of the "Islamic State," were told there is no ... continue reading


HAPPY BIRTHDAY POPE FRANCIS! Beloved Pontiff turns 78 today Watch

Image of Happy Birthday, Pope Francis!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY POPE FRANCIS! Today is Pope Francis' 78th birthday and well-wishers celebrated the day singing and dancing for the Holy Father in St. Peter's Square. VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - Born on December 17, 1936, the man who would become Pope Francis has ... continue reading


Turned into the wild, Pope Francis offers hope to displaced faithful in Middle East Watch

Image of Patriarch Younan said a major focus of their synod was on priestly formation since their communities have faced so much upheaval.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Times are hard and arduous for those who practice their Catholic faith in the Middle East. In a special audience with Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Younan, along with about 350 of his faithful from the Syriac Catholic Church, Pope Francis offered words ... continue reading


Mary hailed as 'great missionary' who brought Gospel to Americas by Pope Francis Watch

Image of Pope Francis and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis along with thousands of Catholics from across the Atlantic celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Vatican. The Pope celebrated Mass to the sounds and rhythms of many of South America's indigenous peoples. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Your Friday Feel Good Story: Watch what happens when the mic goes out during the American National Anthem at a hockey game in Canada! Watch

Image of Ina  heartwarming gesture of respect, Canadians sing the Star Spangled Banner when the microphone game out before a game featuring a team from the USA.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Here's your Friday Feel Good story! Enjoy your Friday and don't forget to share! During a hockey game in Canada between American and Canadian players, the microphone failed, silencing the singer. Without audio, the Americans would be without their national anthem, but ... continue reading


Irenaeus of Lyon on Eve and Mary

Image of An Icon of Ireneaus of Lyon

By Ireneaus of Lyon

The Lord, coming into his own creation in visible form, was sustained by his own creation which he himself sustains in being. His obedience on the tree of the cross reversed the disobedience at the tree in Eden; the good news of the truth announced by an angel to ... continue reading


Taking the Kingdom by Force: Learning from John the Baptizer Watch

Image of The choice is ours. Just as it was with John the Baptizer. He shows us the way to give away our freedom in love - and then find it anew in the One who truly sets us free. (John 8:36). The kingdom of heaven is still being taken by force. The force of love. The Lord is seeking men and women in this hour who will take the kingdom by force like John the Baptizer.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

John the Baptizer was a man of Joy because he was a man of true humility! Humility is a powerful weapon when wielded by a soldier of love like John. He was a man who understood that life wasn't all about him. He emptied himself willingly and was thus able to ... continue reading


Faith restored in humanity! A random act of kindness changes a woman's life forever during the Christmas season Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While protests are wreaking havoc all around the world, wars are being fought, and people are being brutally killed, the warm sensation and fuzzy feeling of Christmas gets overshadowed. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Although good deeds and random acts of kindness ... continue reading


Do We Really Believe in the Resurrection of the Body and the Life of the World to Come? Watch

Image of Seated at the right hand of the Father, he works unceasingly in the world, to draw men into the Church and through it to join them more closely to himself.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. His salvation is offered extended to all men and women. That salvation is not only about our souls, but about the whole human person. It will only be complete when we are raised from the dead and dwell in the kingdom to come. He ... continue reading


A Christmas gift for suffering South Sudan

Image of The people of South Sudan have the same feeling and love for one another we do. Now is the time for us to extend our arms in compassion.

By Tony Magliano

The world's newest nation is in big trouble. After more than 20 years of civil war between the southern and northern areas of Sudan, the southern part of that country on July 9, 2011, became the independent nation of the Republic of South Sudan.But the situation on the ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, First Samuel 1:24-28
24 When she had weaned him, she took him up with her, ... Read More

Psalm, First Samuel 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8
1 Hannah then prayed as follows: My heart exults in ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 1:46-56
46 And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Chaeromon
December 22: Bishop of Nilopolis, in Egypt. When the persecution was ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter