( A commentary on Mark 12: 1-12)
And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed; and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, `They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” And they tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them; so they left him and went away. (Mark 12: 1-12)
Why does Jesus tell such a grim parable? He is warning us about making crucial decisions which can lead to a downward spiral. In the parable it was the decision by the tenants to cut the owner out. It was the decision by some that the goods of the vineyard did not need to be shared with everyone. Now we might call this decision greed, but we might even more appropriately call it pride. It was pride that led some in the vineyard to conclude that their life and needs were more valuable than the life and needs of others. It was pride to decide that the rights of others could be negated.
Envy, greed and pride are the three foundational attributes of evil. Think about it. Think of every conflict – be it personal, or familial, or nation. The three evils are there.
We have all been there in one shade or another. We have all had brushes with them. For some, only occasionally, for others, they have become consumptive.
To be truly healthy and to be at peace, we need to extrapolate their dangers and recognize how harmful they are.
Our families could be the vineyard. Families, when they work together, produce life and joy and a bright future. But if some members of the family decide that their needs, wants, and dreams are more important than those of other members of the family, then jealously and resentment emerge. The life of the family is undermined.
The vineyard could be our country. Our country is blessed with bounty and resources for all of its citizens. But when some politicians decide that it is more important to be elected than to serve the common good, when economic and social structures are set up in a way that they benefit some of the people and not the others, then the bounty of our country is dissipated. The downward spiral begins.
The vineyard could be our planet, a planet graced with so many resources from the hand of God. But when some people make the decision to exploit those resources rather than preserve them or when the desire for profit becomes more important than sustaining the resources that God has given us, then common resources are wasted. The promise of the earth is lost.
This parable reminds us that we should never take that first prideful step. We should never accept the thought that our life, ideas, or agenda are more important than those of others. The parable reminds us that we all share the same vineyard. Therefore, either we will thrive together, or we will go down together. This is why we must remember our connectedness to one another and avoid the temptation of trying to cut someone out. For when we make that prideful choice, the spiral of recrimination and violence begins. The history of humankind reminds us when that happens, it’s a long way down.
The only way up for you, for me, for us is to recognize that the mercy and love of God prevails. That is experienced when we build our life around him. When we make him the cornerstone of our lives. When we rejoice and thank him for what we have.
Jesus Christ came to give us grace and peace in abundance. He came so that we might know those things that make for a balanced and focused life: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, devotion, mutual affection, brotherly love, and ultimately a share in divine nature. Let’s choose him who has chosen us in this way.
Prayer of The Day
“Heavenly Father, you knew full well what would happen to your Son, but chose to send him, nevertheless. So great was your love for the world. So great is your love for me! Remind me always of his presence in my life.”
By giving ourselves over to Jesus’ kingly rule in our lives, Jesus promises that we will bear much fruit (certainly the fruit of peace, righteousness, and joy, and much more besides) if we abide in him (see John 15:1-11). The Lord also entrusts his gifts to each of us and he gives us work to do in his vineyard – the body of Christ. He promises that our labor will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end (see 1 Corinthians 15:58). We can expect trials and even persecution. But in the end, we will see triumph. Do you labor for the Lord with joyful hope and with confidence in his triumph?