I suppose many of you have been down to Niagara on the Lake and seen or visited the many vineyards down there. The lines of grape vines seem to stretch for miles. When these vineyards first started the owners cleared the land with modern earth moving machines. Modern techniques were used for planting the vines and staking them. Modern techniques are used for harvesting and crushing the grapes and aging the wine.
Imagine the backbreaking labor intensive work it must have been to start a vineyard back in the days of Isaiah and Jesus. Breaking the soil, turning it over, clearing it of rocks, planting and staking the vines, building a stone fence and a watch tower and a wine press must have taken years of work and a lot of investment. Whether we think about the vineyard of Isaiah, which represents the people of Israel or the vineyard Jesus describes, which represents those who so strongly opposed the person and teachings of Jesus, we hear that both owners of the vineyards – for all their labor –were rewarded with wild grapes and murderous tenants. It was all thrown back in their face. God’s love for his chosen people, Christ’s great desire to speak and show the Father’s love for all God’s people, both were rejected. Both owners could say, ‘what more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done.?’
We can just imagine the frustration and disappointment of the owners of both these vineyards – all their work, their love goes for nothing. We’ve all know the word ‘entitlement’. It is a mindset that is so real in our times. I have a right, I am owed, I deserve. The chosen people, the religious leaders at the time of Jesus were convinced they were special people and had a right to the gifts of God. People today suffer from this same delusion. I have a right to a better job, better opportunities, a better home a better life style than my parents. Things are supposed to be bigger and better.
It is a hard lesson to learn that we are not an entitled people we are a gifted people. St. Paul asks in one of his letters,’ what have you that you have not received and if you have received it, if you have been gifted, why do you carry on as if had earned it or were owed it? We are here because we were gifted with the gift of faith, a gift that enables us to know that before the world began God chose us as God’s adopted sons and daughters. We are gifted with a faith that assures us God love our world so much he sent his only son as one of us, and the son loved us so much he died on the cross for us. We are gifted with a faith that enables us to know bread is more than bread and wine is more than wine – they are the body and blood of our crucified Lord.
We are gifted to know that we are our brothers and sisters keepers and that Christ comes into our lives in every person we meet. Our gift of faith is meant to grow and produce – as vines are meant to grow and produce choice wine.
We all know there is so much, too much selfishness, racism, sexism, bigotry, prejudice, economic injustice and exploitation in our city and country. Life is too unfair for too many people. As gifted members of God’s vineyard, in the ordinary living of our ordinary lives, we are meant to produce the choice wine of love for others, the choice wine of reconciliation with those we have harmed or those who have harmed us, the choice wine of acceptance and respect for the faith and life situations of friends and strangers, the choice wine of working for social justice, fair immigration laws, affordable housing, just wages, the choice wine of loving others as we have been loved.
As we continue this Mass we pray for ourselves and for one another that by God’s grace we gifted people that we are, will produce the choice wine of a well lived life.