Isaiah 5:1-7, Philippians 4:6-9, Matthew 21:33-43
We live to Bear Good Fruits
In the year 2018, I went on an excursion with my students at Nnewi. One man who saw how happy the students were, came to me and expressed how thankful he was to see the young students desiring to acquire more knowledge.
He advised the students. Hence, during that short advice, he also intimated to us how disappointing some students can be to their parents and guardians. He shared his personal story on how distressing children can be sometimes.
According to his story, he has three children; two daughters and a son. He loves his children so much but has more complete love for his son and decided to train him in a big university.
The man did everything to make sure His only son did not lack anything. He provided all his needs and provided him with all he could to make sure he became a lawyer.
To his greatest dismay, after six years of spending heavily on his son, his son decided to end his education halfway. The boy insisted that he must travel out of the country to choose the kind of life he wanted to live. That was how he dropped out of school against his parents’ wish despite all that was invested. Till that day, the man said that his beloved son had nothing to show.
He abandoned his education, abandoned his parents and awaited responsibilities as the only son of the family.
The father was disappointed that his efforts were watered down. His resources, provisions, care, and love for the son were wasted. His expectation of the son ended in futility.
The first reading and the gospel point at the loving Father, who has chosen Israel as His vineyard and has done everything for it to bear good fruits but received the opposite.
God has invested deeply in us and provided us with all the natural and human resources to develop and work for Him. His intention is for us to bear good fruits with what He has given us but we have turned everything upside down. Let us analyse the readings gradually.
A. Interpretation of the Key Features.
To fully understand the gospel and the first reading, we have to note the key figures here. We have the landowner, the Vineyard, the tenants, the servants, and the son.
From a clear interpretation, the Landowner is God, the vineyard is the nation of Israel carefully chosen and prepared by God to be His fruitful vineyard as the first reading says.
The tenants are the religious leaders and the people to whom God entrusted the care of the vine. The servants are the prophets sent to the people and the son is Jesus Christ who was later crucified by the people He was sent to save.
The Landowner Who Planted a Vineyard.
The first reading and the gospel captured the effort of a landowner who planted a Vineyard.
Isaiah tells us about his friend who had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. According to Isaiah, the Vineyard is already situated on fertile ground. The owner dug the soil, cleared it of stones and planted choice vines in it.
Then in the middle, he built a tower and dug a press there too. He expected it to yield grapes, but sour grapes were all that it gave.
This same scenario happened in the gospel, In His effort to see that the vineyard bore good fruits, the Landowner put a fence around it, built a tower in it and dug a winepress inside it; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad.
To understand this, we have to go to the deep root of the practice of some of the terms used in this parable.
1. The Presence of Vineyards.
The Presence of Vineyards in the life of the Israelites indicates someone or people who are highly prosperous. This is the reason God promised in Jeremiah 32:15 and Ezekiel 28:26 that He will again plant vineyards in their midst.
In essence, He will again ensure that they are prosperous again. The Vineyards are owned by highly prosperous people. It indicates a place of abundance because through the vineyard, vines and grapes are produced and later processed, sold and exported as wine. So, many vineyards have winepresses.
So, many Israelites who have vineyards are, of course, wealthy people. This explains the reason the tenants decided to possess the vineyard by all means.
2. Location of Winepresses.
Secondly, in the land of Israel, only a few vineyards have wine presses. Wine presses are usually located in the city where people take their vines and grapes to be processed into wine. So, the presence of winepress in the vineyard is a sign of extreme care and love from the Landowner to ensure that His vineyard produces abundant yield. This we can see in the first reading and the gospel.
3. The Fence.
The Fence was done to protect the vineyard from external attack unlike what happened in the parable of the wheat and tares in Matthew 13:24-30 where an enemy came in the night and sowed another seed in the field.
The fence helps to protect the vineyard against invaders, thieves, rodents and enemies.
4. The Presence of the Tower.
Similar to the first reading, a tower is built. This particular tower has a likely feature that anyone who sees it will know it is a vineyard. The tower was built in the middle so that it could be seen by everyone. The tower will be visible anywhere so that people will know that vineyards exist in such a place.
This is the Message.
1. These parables and the allegory of the vineyard in the first reading are a message of how God has blessed the people of Israel with abundance and prosperity. They are the chosen people and hence God’s vineyard.
So, the message in the first reading and the gospel indicates that God has blessed the people of Israel with enough of what they need. God has also shown them extreme love and care. Then, in doing this, God expects them to bear good fruits by making sure they become good people and remain closer to Him. God expects them to make good use of the resources He provides them with by living a righteous life, keeping justice and also remaining ever grateful by being connected to Him.
Just as God blessed Israel with a land full of milk and honey and expects them to bear good fruits is the same way God has blessed us with natural and human resources. He extremely cares for our well-being both spiritually and physically. There is nothing that God has not done for us.
2. In the first reading, He asks “What could I have done for my vineyard that I have not done?
The concern here is that despite all that God has done for His people, they repay with evil, ingratitude, indifference and lack of interest in Him.
In the first reading, God says I expected it to yield grapes. But it yields sour grapes instead.
Yielding sour grapes indicates that despite all the good things that God does for it, what He gets in return are sour responses and fruits.
He receives sour attitudes, evil, wickedness, etc. Instead of coming to Him because of His goodness, we turn our back to Him. We live to bear good fruits, but we are living and bearing the opposite.
2. The Fence was done to protect the vineyard from external attack.
The fence helps to protect the vineyard against invaders, thieves, rodents and enemies. Therefore, this indicates how God protects His own always.
Just like the fence was built, He continually prunes us and protects us from spiritual attacks and unwanted circumstances.
Therefore, we live to bear good fruits and repay the Lord for His goodness, rather what He received from us was constant ingratitude and a nonchalant attitude towards our spiritual lives. Instead of running away from evil, sometimes we are the ones running to them. We abandon our creator to pursue shadows.
4. Similar to the first reading, a tower is built. This particular tower has a likely feature that anyone who sees it will know it is a vineyard.
Like the towers too, God blesses us to be light to the world. He has invested so much in us and thus expects us to reward Him back by the good fruits we shall produce, but we have turned the world upside down and abandoned our God.
The Landowner Expects Fruits from His Vineyard.
In the readings, the Landowner did his part perfectly and expects those who are in charge of His vineyard to do their part too.
In the gospel, the sending of the servants and more servants and even his Beloved Son explains how the landowner is awaiting positive reports from His people in Israel.
His continual sending of prophets and even His son is to remind them of what God expects from His people, hence instead they beat them, maltreat them and even kill them.
This, in essence, indicates that God has blessed us with whatever we need to be good, be close to Him and succeed.
He continues to send us ministers, priests, and men of God to remind us of our responsibilities towards God, yet we rather attack them, show a lack of love and even plot to pull them down. Instead of listening to people that God sends to us, we turn our back on them and even lose faith.
We pay back with faithlessness, evil, injustice, and insincerity towards God.
You Are A Tower.
This parable invariably is teaching us that God has made Huge investments in us. The gospel says He digs a pit for the winepress and builds a tower. This message is also telling us that we are made special. You are a tower. Therefore, we live to bear good fruits.
In those days towers were very expensive and a sign of somebody who is very wealthy. Towers also announce the building or an investment to the people who are living far away. Therefore, towers will bring people to the site of the investment.
Therefore, God building a tower on us, means that He has given us the highest gifts and talents that will attract us to the breakthrough, wealth, attraction, progress, and success that we need.
What God now expects from us is to use these things He has given us to work for the glory of His name.
We live to bear good fruits and God wants us to always bear good fruits. He constantly sends people to remind us of our vocations and obligations to Him. He sends priests, friends, and relatives to talk to us but sometimes we pay deaf ears to them.
The Landowner Who sends.
The Landowner has sent His prophets to the people of Israel to care for their spiritual and physical wellbeing yet they were brutally maimed and decimated finally He sent His son Jesus Christ, but He was even persecuted and killed.
The sending is a sign of love, care and His will to see that no soul is lost. But those sent were utterly neglected and attacked and killed. We tend to live the way we want and thus regret at last. We live to bear good fruits but what God receives is the opposite.
In the first reading, the Vineyard owner laments” What more can I again do for my vineyard that I have not done before? I expected it to give me fine grapes, but it yielded wild ones.
God expected peace, progress, justice, righteousness, etc but we have produced injustice, bribery and corruption, poverty hunger and faithlessness.
In the first reading and gospel, certainly, the Vineyard Owner will no longer allow the tenants to operate His vineyard but He will bring judgment upon them. By rejecting Jesus the Stone, these builders (Matthew. 21:42) will thus suffer judgment.
What Can We Do?
Then comes the second reading. To produce good fruits, Paul in the second reading emphasizes closeness to God through prayers and committing everything into His hands as a way to have inner peace, putting our attention and concentration only on what is noble, perfect, good and praiseworthy.
Removing our minds from evil desires, wickedness, and hatred. So when we focus on whatever is Good, we will be motivated to do it.
The clear summary is that to bear good fruits, let us focus always on doing what is good. When everyone focuses on doing good, good results will always come since every cause must have an effect.
2. To make it simple, we have to take the word of God as our guide. In the second reading, Paul encourages his listeners to keep doing all the things that they learnt from him have been taught by him and have heard from him or seen him do.
Then the God of peace will be with them. Therefore, we have to keep doing all the good things that God tells us through His word and the good things that we see him do. Let us always put them into practice.
1. This hence indicates that God expects us to bear good fruit with all the things He has done and provided, and continues to do for us. He has constantly elongated our lives not just for any reason but for us to sow the seed that will lead us to eternal life.
2. God has also blessed us with human and natural resources to care for our physical well-being. He consistently feeds us with his word to bring us closer to Him. But the truth is that we are sincerely paying no attention to Him. Sometimes we even disregard the efforts of those ministers sent to care for our souls.
3. Many of us or Some have neglected the many gifts God blessed them with or maybe we do not use them at all. Do we actually know that what we have is meant to be used and not to stagnate?
4. The parable was directly talking to the Jews, the Pharisees and the elders of Israel who seem to pay less attention to the works and teachings of the Messiah. Because of their neglect, God has decided to bring in more nations who will serve Him in spirit and truth.
In essence, what God needs from us is not the quest to be known, the quest to become popular or the quest to acquire the whole earth. It is not how many positions we occupy or how much money we have but how close we are to Him.
5. The readings simply stipulate that however and whatever we do today have an implication. There must be a day of reckoning, and there is a day of judgment. One day we will go before our creator and take account of all He has bestowed on us.
6. The readings also remind us that we are just like tenants in this world. We are not the owner. We are instruments that God is using. Whatever we have in this world is what God gives to us to take care of them.
We are only taking care of God’s creation. Therefore, we live to bear good fruits and not the other way round.
Hence, Sometimes like tenants, we think that everything is now in our hands. We tend to forget that we are just tenants and God only gives us the privilege to work for Him.
Hence, we forget this and begin to think that we are the owners of everlasting life until the day of reckoning comes. Surely there will be a day we shall say “Had I know’.
7. God is blessing you so that you can be a blessing to others. God wants us to be a tower, a light to the nations and a magnet that touches lives. We live to bear good fruits. The reason God is blessing you is not for you to use it and intimidate others. God is not blessing you so that you will be a thorn in your family.
In the gospel, the owner of the vineyard gave them ordinary privilege to take care of a vineyard, but they later thought they are now incharge.
They attacked every person that was sent to them. Therefore, like those servants, this is how God gives us simple privileges to be in some positions, professions, vocations and services.
Instead of using those privileges to touch lives, we became a nightmare to people.
We have to understand that whatever we have, God gives to us and what God gives to us is for the good of creation and humanity.
Quit using what you have to bear evil fruits. Quit using what you have to torment the people living with you. You are only an instrument. We live to bear good fruits and not the opposite.
May God help us.