Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Commentary for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time by Sr. Susan Marie Lindstrom, OSB

We have heard this parable of the wicked tenants often enough to suspect that Matthew is directing the story to the leaders of Israel, those who were given responsibility to maintain a healthy vineyard, and to give back to God the fruits of their work of caretaking, instructing and upholding the Law. The servants who were killed as they attempted to gather the owner’s share represent the prophets whom the leaders rejected. The Son, obviously, is Jesus, the rightful heir who is killed out of greed or fear or perhaps even jealousy.

It would be easy to focus on these aspects of the story, but today I invite us to consider the vineyard and the landowner.

In the 1st reading this Sunday, Isaiah tells us that the vineyard owner prepared the land, put up a hedge and watch tower and built a wine vat. We see the providence and the faithfulness of the landowner.

It was typical for a landowner to entrust the care of the property to tenants who would keep a share of the produce of the land and return the bulk of the harvest to the landowner. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement that left the landowner free to travel and provided sustenance and livelihood for the tenants. The tenants were given great freedom and great responsibility. Most of us understand the work is required to have a good garden… a vineyard requires even more care! As the vines grow, they need to be tied up, supported, pruned at the appropriate times.

God entrusts to each of us the vineyard of the Kingdom, the vineyard of the Church. While pure gift, it requires of us mindfulness of the task we have been given, attentiveness to the growth we desire, awareness of the elements that might hurt or help the plants, knowledge of when the harvest is ready. There is certainly no possibility of sitting back and going on auto-pilot… as soon as the harvest is in, there is wine to be made, land to be cleared, soil to be turned over in preparation for the next planting.

Now, within this vineyard, there are some special fields, choice grapes, special vintage. For most of us in this room, that special ground is monastic life. The fields entrusted to Antony of the Desert, to Cassian, to Benedict are now ours to tend. They have been nurtured and stewarded for centuries. In this vineyard grow not grapes of wrath but fruits of zeal, obedience, stability. We are called to faithfully cultivate the plot lest thorns of contention spring up and choke the fruit

How do we care for our monastic vineyard? Are we aware of the trust that God has placed in us? Hour by hour, do we keep careful watch over all we do, aware that God’s gaze is upon us, wherever we may be? Do we ever get stuck in the feeling of entitlement that proved to be the downfall of the tenants in our gospel story? What are the fruits that we bear as we live our monastic life? Do we work hard enough to give the landowner a share while still having enough to feed ourselves and to share with others?

We are entrusted with a charism that is at the service of the church. We are called to nurture our own monastic vineyard while being aware of all who have worked this soil before us, and all who are yet to come. Let us labor to bring forth a rich harvest and to show the vineyard owner gratitude by our diligence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i love this place