Today, the prophet Isaiah in a proverb sings to us the vineyard song, in which his friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He made great efforts to make it fertile on that hillside. There, he planted the choicest vines; built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Instead of getting crop of grapes, rather, he saw wild grapes. In his disappointments, his friend will remove all its support, and give it up to be destroyed. With this proverb, the prophet is given the message that, the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the cherished plant. The Lord looked for judgement among them, but could only see bloodshed; instead of finding justice, he could only hear of outcry of the oppressed.
The prophet’s song of the vineyard was a strong message with which the prophet gives the whole history of Israel at a glance. God is the owner of the vineyard. The valuable vines are the Israelites whom God rescued from Egypt; the good land where this people were transplanted is Palestine; the stones that were in the field and were removed are the nations that inhabited the place, before Israel’s arrival. The fruits that the owner was expecting are the works that God demands from his people. Those fruits that God was looking for, from his people, were faithfulness to the covenant, social justice, love of the poor, the orphan, and of the widow, including justice and Godliness. Here, the prophet laments over Israel, as the Lord’s vine, well cared for, but which turned out to be unpredictable vineyard that yielded only sour grapes. In the end, the vineyard must be rejected.
Isaiah’s song of the vineyard refers to Israel as the vineyard of the Lord that was supposed to produce fruits of goodness, which it failed in bringing forth. In the New Testament, Jesus applied this proverb to the wicked tenants, who were hired, to yield the fruits of the vineyard. Instead of yielding the produce of the vineyard, the tenants seized the servants, one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. The owner of the vineyard sent more servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, they would respect his son, but the tenants conspired, seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him, in order to acquire his inheritance. The verdict is that, the owner will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.
With this, Jesus uses this parable with allegorical features to point to his rejection by the Jewish leaders, and his acceptance by the Gentiles. This parable brings out clearly the hostility that constantly existed between the leaders in Israel’s history and the servants of the Lord, the prophets. They were constantly opposed and were met with persecutions and contradictions. With the continued characteristics of the Old Testament prophecy in Jesus, Jesus was going to be treated alike, and even to be met with violent death, in the hands of the established authorities. Jesus summarized this reality by saying that the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes.
With our faith centered on Jesus Christ, crucified but risen from the dead, as the cornerstone of the Church, we believe that there is no salvation, in no one else. As his disciples, we all are called to bear fruits of his life, death and resurrection. Each of us is called to replicate his life, death and resurrection and bear fruits of the kingdom, of holiness, goodness, justice, mercy and compassion. Filled with the Holy Spirit and his sevenfold gifts, each person’s life and activities, must radiate the fruits of the Spirit, and bring about universal transformation and sanctification.
In this way, God’s peace will fill us in Christ Jesus, and our thoughts will be directed to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise. Let us continue to pray and ask God to give us the Spirit and grace to bear fruits of his Kingdom, now and forever. Amen