Memorial of St. Boniface
Today, Jesus challenges the chief priests, in a confrontational episode. The parable of the vineyard owner and the wicked tenants is addressed to the leaders who would have immediately thought about the prophet Isaiah and would have known that the parable was an allegory of the story of Israel, its rejection of the prophets, and Gods unstinting patience and boundless love for them. They would have known that they were being compared to the wicked tenants of the vineyard who did not give the owner what was due to him.
The setting is a vineyard that has everything that could possibly be needed for it to be successful. The owner of the vineyard builds it, furnishes it, leases it out to tenants, and it is left in their care while he goes on a journey. Jesus tells them that the owner sends messengers to the tenants, to claim what is rightfully his, but they are rejected. And, in a chilling foretelling of his own death outside the city walls of Jerusalem, he tells them that the son is sent by the Father and that he is dragged outside the vineyard and put to death by the tenants.
Time after time, God sent prophets to remind his people of his love and care for them, that he created everything and everything belongs to him. The prophets were rejected and were victims of terrible violence. They brought messages that people did not like, messages that reminded them that they are sinners.
What does this mean for us today? The vineyard is the world, the owner is God, and we are the tenants. This should trouble us. What are we doing wrong? We have an advantage over the leaders of Jesus’ time. We know how this story ends. We know that God the Father sent his only begotten son, Jesus Christ to earth to become one of us, to suffer and die for our sins. We have the apostolic succession, access to Sacred Scripture and Tradition; the teaching of the Church. We have countless examples of saints and martyrs. Today we celebrate an English martyr, St. Boniface, who was murdered as he did the work he was called to do. Like the messengers to the tenants of the vineyard, he died in service of God, as an Archbishop and missionary.
Like the tenants of the vineyard, we have everything we need to know, love, and serve God. We are here for his purposes. The world has been given to us, to take care of it, to make it flourish. And God does not micro-manage our lives, we have free will. We are independent; however, we are tenants of the world, not owners. We are here to use our gifts and skills for the building of the kingdom and to make a return to God in thanksgiving for our many blessings.
Let’s ask ourselves today: Are we shooting the messengers? Do we hear the message, and in humility, recognize that we are sinners? Do we give thanks to God, with joy, that he sent his only son into the world, not to condemn us, but to save us?
We are tenants; our time here is finite, and we have a limited window of opportunity in which to produce great fruit. What is the fruit he wants from us? It is Love. Love of God and of neighbor, generosity, kindness, and justice. Let us make a return to God of a rich harvest, the fruit of our lives.