The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A - October 2nd, 2011

Today's gospel passage is one that can be read and understood from many points of view.  For the Jews it clearly evokes the imagery of Isaiah where the vine represents the people of Israel.  The message is very evident.  If the people that God has chosen do not live up to their side of the covenant; then God will find a people who will.

For Christians, especially given the introduction of the figure of the son into the narrative, the story is easily understood as referring to Jesus.

Both of these seem to me to be valid interpretations of this passage once we take account of where those interpreting it are coming from.  The world view of the interpreter is an important factor in how the interpretation is done.  In fact, the cultural context of the person reading any given text can have major implications for how that person can read the text.  To read this text as a Jew and to read it as a Christian, for example, lead to very differing understandings.  To read this text from a situation in which values such as Justice, Freedom, Equality and Peace (among others) are under threat will lead us, in my opinion, to quite a different interpretation from the one that may originate from a context in which all these values are securely guaranteed.  However, whatever our context, this gospel passage requires of us that we make choices.

At the centre of the message of this story about the vineyard is the question of who should or should not be in charge of it, or even in it.  In the story told by Jesus, it is the land owner who decides, ultimately, who should be in the vineyard.  This decision is made on the basis of the fruits being brought forth - a combination of the vines and the work of those responsible.  The question for us is; What work are we willing to do?  What fruits are we willing to work for so that they may eventually ripen and give nourishment?

To put all the emphasis on the decision of the landowner is, in my opinion, to miss the point.  There are other, previous choices to be made by each one of us who is trying to be regarded as belonging in the vineyard.

We already know that these choices involve what we often refer to as "kingdom values" (Justice, Compassion, Service, Forgiveness etc).  These values are not just notional but are to be put into practice.  These values are not something that we are planning to implement some day when the time is right.  These are to be the very things which characterise our way of living.

To borrow an idea from a North American theologian (whose name escapes me), our task is to be there there.  In other words: it is not a sufficient response to the Christian call if we are willing to "be there" in theory or in principle when my brother or sister needs me.  The only possible Christian response is to "be there" right there in the midst of the need that my brother or sister is experiencing.

Today's gospel passage, then, is one that places squarely before us the challenge to belong to the vineyard.  This is the challenge to take up the cause of one another.  This is the challenge to be community.


Article posted on 1st of October 2011

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