Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? --Matthew 21:33-42
For the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, the Holy Orthodox Church instructs us to read a parable from the Gospel of Saint Matthew. In this parable, Jesus speaks of a landowner who planted a vineyard and prepared all that was necessary to be successful in this venture. He placed a fence around it, put in the winepress and a tower. The landowner then turned all this over to the vinedressers, who he commissioned to work and tend the fields, and departed to a far country. Soon it was time for the harvest. The owner sent some of his servants to the vineyard to receive the fruits of the harvest. Instead of receiving the harvest, the vinedressers, those that were instructed to be the stewards of the land, beat, stoned, and killed the servants. Again the owner sent more of his servants. Likewise, they were beaten and killed. Finally, the landowner decided to send his son. Surely, the vinedressers would respect the son of the owner! But when the men saw the son coming, they also killed him, for they knew that he was the heir to this property and without the son all this could be theirs. Not only the harvest would be claimed by the workers, but also the fields, the fence, the winepress, and the tower.
Jesus questions us: “When the lord of the vineyard comes, what do you think he will do to the workers?” The answer is given in the Gospel reading: “ He will destroy the wicked men. And he will rent his vineyard out to other workers, who will give him the fruits in their season.” The harvest will be expected and will be collected!
A parable is a story that presents to us spiritual truths. The landowner of the vineyard is the Lord our God. The vineyard, planted by God Himself in the land of promise, is the Jewish Nation, the Church of the Old Testament. The fence that was placed around the vineyard, represents the separation of the chosen nation from the rest of the world. The winepress is the altar, where the harvest is presented to the Lord, and the tower is the temple.
When the true servants of God were sent to the vineyard, to the chosen nation, they were beaten, stoned, and some were killed as were the many prophets sent in the Old Testament. The son of the owner of the vineyard represents Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The leaders of the Jewish nation, the vinedressers in the story, cast the son out of the vineyard, as Jesus Christ is crucified outside the city of Jerusalem. God expected the harvest, the chosen nation, to be presented in due time, but the vinedressers, the leaders of the chosen people, entrusted with the vineyard, did not fulfill what was expected of them.
What has the Lord God done to those that He initially entrusted to be stewards of the vineyard? He has taken away His blessing from those that were initially entrusted to be the stewards of the Kingdom of God, the nation which He had a special relationship, the Old Testament Church. The special relationship that God had with the Hebrew Nation ended when the people which were the stewards not only did not provide a harvest, but killed those sent to them, which included the Son of God.
God entrusted the vineyard to new workers, to new stewards - the New Testament Church. All those that believe in the Lord, are baptized into Christ, are entrusted with the vineyard and the harvest is expected from them in due time!
If God expects a harvest from us, the new stewards of His vineyard, then how are we to proceed with this stewardship? What kind of fruit or harvest is the Lord expecting from us? As the newly enlisted workers in the vineyard of the Lord and the children of God, we are expected to bare the fruits of the Holy Spirit. These fruits, or virtues of a Christian are: wisdom, justice, patience, moderation, faith, hope, and love, and these are the fruits we are to bring forth to the altar in the vineyard of Christ. Of all these attributes, love will be the most important in the harvest. “By this (love) all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”(John 13:35).
An illustration may assist our understanding of this harvest that is expected of us. A church had two beautiful stained-glass windows that were exactly the same, except on opposite sides of the church. The sun shone only through one of them producing a wonderful effect while the other one seemed dark and unremarkable because the rays of the sun were not reaching it. The light of the sun made the difference producing the beautiful effect that was expected of a stained-glass window.
Does the light of Christ shine through our lives? Do our lives as Christians produce the expected beautiful effect? Or does the light of Christ shine through some of us and the others are dark and unremarkable? Jesus Christ said: Let your light shine before men…”( Matthew 5:16). People should be able to tell by our daily lives that we are Christians. People should be able to tell that we are the stewards of His Holy vineyard, that we bare fruit and present the harvest in due time to God, and that the virtues of wisdom, justice, patience, moderation, faith, hope, and love allow the Holy Spirit to shine through us. This is the harvest that our Master is expecting from us, the workers of His Holy Church! Amen.
Fr. Deacon Ihor Mahlay
Fr. Deacon Ihor serves at St. Vladimir Cathedral, Parma, Ohio