Once upon a time, a man receives a call from the national shipping inspection office to attend an interview for the post of an inspection manager. He had forgotten about the application he made to the organization seven months earlier and was delighted to receive the invitation.
On the interview day, the CEO tells the man that his resume is impressive and he would want him to work for the organization and would start the coming week. He further informs him that his first assignment would be to clear a ship that would be berthing with some containers of substandard drugs. The CEO adds that he should pass the inspection of the vessel and document it as certified ok!
The man expresses shock and asks the CEO how he could pass a ship with substandard drugs. The CEO responds and tells him that it is a deal and he would profit from it if he accepts. He concludes by advising the man to think about the offer and come back to his office the next day.
At home, the man tells his wife, and she instantly advises him to take the offer and make the extra money which would help them get rich quick and come off their long-time suffering. The man’s best friend also visited him that evening and joined his wife to convince him to take the offer.
The next day, the man comes to see the CEO for feedback. He thanked the CEO for his kindness and the offer. However, he tells him that he would rather forfeit the job offer than living with a guilty conscience for allowing substandard drugs into the country.
The CEO could not believe the man’s bold refusal of both the job offer and the sidekicks. Rising from his seat, he goes to the man and gives him a warm hug with tears in his eyes. The man did not understand why the man could tear up and even hug him for refusing the job offer.
The CEO settles down and tells him that he has been conducting interviews for the past seven months looking for someone who could make a difference, but it has been difficult to get anyone with a good conscience beyond their qualifications. He tells him that he is the last on the list, but has shown that he is the right guy for the job. Nobody can mistake good fruits!
Somewhere I read that: “by their fruits, you shall know them” (Matt. 7:16). Note very well; it is by their fruits not on their face! Things are not often what they seem to be on the face value most of the time.
Going to the Gospel of today (Matt. 21:33-43), we can create a mental picture of the disposition of the tenants when they were receiving the fully equipped vineyard from the landowner on the lease. One could imagine them beaming with smiles. On the other hand, one could also visualize the anger and the hate on their faces when it was time for them to pay for the lease with the fruits of the vineyard.
It will be essential for us to establish at this point that the contention in the parable is the FRUIT of the vineyard; the landowner did not ask for money but fruits. Why were the tenants revolting? The answer is also straightforward; they were unable to bear fruits. We could see the reference to this in the resolution of the narrative:
“He would put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will GIVE HIM THE PRODUCE (fruits) AT THE PROPER TIME.”
An efficient and personal way to continue this reflection is for each one of us to ask: “what am I doing in my vineyard.” Now your vineyard is where you function. There are many vineyards: your family is your vineyard, your office is your vineyard, your workplace is your vineyard, your school is your vineyard, your flock is your vineyard, your job description is your vineyard. We are both tenants and caretakers of these vineyards like the people in the narrative.
Among all the vineyards, the greatest of them is your soul. Today is very proper for us to examine what happens in that vineyard which is God’s gift to each one of us and where He dwells. In the gospel of Matthew (15:11), our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that it is not what goes into a man that kills the man but what comes of the man. The fruits we bear come from within us; they are not external elements.
“What am I doing in my vineyard?” St. Paul answers this question in the Second Reading (Phil.4:6-9) by recommending that we should avoid anxiety, always pray with thanksgiving and keep doing good by paying attention to the following:
- whatever is true
- whatever is honorable
- whatever is just
- whatever is pure
- whatever is lovely
- whatever is gracious
- whatever is excellent
- whatever is worthy of praise.
As we enter a new week, let us try to focus on our various vineyards to know what we are doing there and how we are doing them. We need to make sure that we excel in producing good fruits because a vineyard is useless when it cannot provide vines. Furthermore, we shall give answers about our vineyards like the tenants. It does not matter how long we try to escape or avoid the demand for fruits. Now is the time to bear the right fruits!
Have an awesome week ahead.