We Are All Renters
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 8, 2017
In this Sunday’s gospel (Matthew 21:33-43), Jesus offers the parable of a man who takes great care to set up his own business—a vineyard. He made a sizeable investment in time and money, planting a hedge, installing an expensive winepress, and cultivating grapes (this takes time!). After all these extensive preparations, he went out and found tenants to buy a lease and run the business for him.
We know how this comes out in Jesus’ parable! The tenants refuse to pay their rent or even a fair share of the profits they are earning on this leased land. Incredibly, they actually begin to think that the property and all that was set up there belongs to them and that they should keep all the profits, so they resort to killing every legitimate debt-collector who shows up. The last straw in this sad tale occurs when these “tenants” even kill the owner’s son when he finally arrives, thinking that then the whole operation will then fall to them. Instead, they are turned out and executed for murder!
We live in a world that has (conveniently) forgotten who the landlord is – God – and that we are actually tenants, renters of property that we do not really own at all. Everything we have is a gift from God. The earth was here long before we ever showed up. In fact, it was set up by God, very carefully and over a long period of time, ultimately for our benefit. In every generation, the Lord “hires” tenants for his property: we are born into bodies we did not ask for and into a world we did not create. All God asks from us is that we give him a return on his investment – primarily by acknowledging him – thanking him, loving him, and by being generous with what we have received (our time and money).
There are some in this world who would prefer to kill off “God” and place themselves in that position—as if the very idea of a “Creator” of the world is a threat to them. The fact is that this is God’s world – he is the one who set it up so he sets the rules. We can find them in the Bible – and in our own hearts. We ignore these rules to our own peril. We are creatures who are dependent on him for our very existence.
God is a threat to some because they want no restraints on their “freedom” – freedom to destroy the environment, freedom to ruin lives through corporate greed, freedom to experiment on or kill the unborn with impunity, and they certainly don’t want God or any church telling them what to do! But though we may kill the messengers God sends to us (the Bible, the Church, our conscience, warnings in world events), this does not change the reality that after death there awaits heaven, hell and purgatory; and, whether we agree or not, this really is the Lord’s property we live on and he, the landlord, ultimately sets the rules.