The Parable of the Tenants

The Parable of the Tenants October 11, 2023

a grape vineyard
image via Pixabay


A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew:

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,
‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He 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.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you,
the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”



Here we are in the Father’s Vineyard.

We are in the Father’s vineyard, as I mentioned last month, to do the Father’s work, but also because the Father loves us and thought we might like it here. We didn’t plant this vineyard, the Father did. We didn’t put in the winepress for making wine, or the tower to keep us safe. Those were gifts from the Father. Everything we have is the Father’s, paid for by the Father, planted by the Father’s hand. We don’t own a thing. All we did was agree to come into the vineyard, and now we are here, doing the work. That is what the Church is.

Now the Father sends a servant to obtain the produce, which is His by right because He planted it. We just work here. There’s plenty of produce to nourish everyone, so there shouldn’t be a problem, but it is.

We don’t like to share.

The servant is somebody new. The servant is from someplace we’re not, with a culture all her own that we don’t recognize.  The servant is a different race than us. The servant sins differently than we do. The servant is Queer or intersex, and it’s inconvenient that Queer and intersex people exist. The servant is autistic and we don’t like how she fidgets. The servant is Deaf and we don’t know how to sign. The servant is blind and we’re annoyed that she brought her dog. The servant is in a wheelchair and will need a ramp to get up into the vineyard. She’s got Parkinson’s Disease, and her tremors distract us from prayer. She’s mentally ill and her fears and agonies are ones we don’t share. She’s a child, and children need our care when we’d rather do something else. She notices things about us that we’d like to go unnoticed. She speaks at the wrong time. She does the wrong things. This is a problem.

The Father wants that servant to take some of our produce. We can’t have that.

So we get rid of the servant.

We are always getting rid of the servant.

One servant we beat, another we kill, another we stone. One we hang and another gets burned at the stake.  These we drive off in a pogrom and give their ghetto to somebody else. These we kidnap from their native land and sell into slavery. These we torture with a residential school or a Magdalene laundry or conversion therapy until they are permanently traumatized. Others we torment with shunning and gossip until they die from suicide, and then we say the suicide was their sin. Another we shun from the family and never speak to again. This one we silence because we can’t stand the thought that a priest raped her. This one we starve because we can’t bother to feed her. This one we humiliate for not dressing up for Mass, when we didn’t see to it that she had clothing in the first place. This one can’t come to our school. This one can’t worship in our parish. This one can’t be seen with us in public. They all go away without the Father’s fruit.

Again the Father sends servants, thousands and millions of servants, and the Church does the same to them.

The Father sends His only Son.

He is always sending His only Son.

The whole history of the Church has been the history of the Father sending us His only Son, in the tabernacle of a person who is different from us, so that we can see the image of the Father, and worship Him, and make our offerings of the fruit from the vineyard which is the Father’s by right.

Again and again we murder the Son, to get the inheritance.

And now what will become of the Church?

What do you think will happen to the Church?

What will we say for ourselves, when the Father finds out what the Church has done in His vineyard?

What will we do when we find that, in killing the Son, we’ve killed our own souls and lost the vineyard?

We can only hope that the Son rises from the dead, and comes to us again.

This time we’ll be ready.

This time we’ll welcome Him with tears of repentance, declare our contrition for every single murder, and give the Father everything He was owed. Won’t we?

Can’t we?

Can we trust in the Father’s mercy?

Maybe there’s still time to get it right.



Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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