Scripture Readings: Isaiah 5.1-7; Philippians 4.6-9; Matthew 21.33-43
“With that the tenants seized the son, dragged him outside the vineyard, and killed him. When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” – Matthew 21.40
The vineyard workers in Sunday’s gospel are tenants. Like them, my family lived on someone else’s farm, worked the land, and shared the crops with the owner.
I like to drive past the farm where I grew up. I know the lay of the land like a pro golfer knows a course, the crests of the hills, the sloughs, the immovable rocks along the fence lines. As I learned the land and worked it with Dad and Grandpa, it seemed to belong to us.
Few people farm today but many city people rent and lease. For someone who owns buildings, an ideal tenant treats the leased space as if it were his or her own.
But tenants always cause wear. Apartments need painting and repair. The rent due at the end of every month reminds tenants who the owner is. The end of a lease brings up settling the damage deposit.
On farms, tenants and owner square up at harvest. In Sunday’s gospel the owner’s servants discover trouble in the vineyard. The tenants feel the entire grape harvest belongs to them.
In the first reading the prophet Isaiah lament for God about a vineyard that has produced sour grapes. Instead of justice, equality, and generous sharing of resources, God’s people fail to keep the covenant. The prophet calls them to return.
What is your experience of being a tenant? Of being an owner who rents to others? In whom or in what do you invest despite disappointment?