The Tenants Who Killed The Landlord
27th Sunday Ordinary Time
October 4, 2020
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.
Well, we all know how this came out. The tenants refused to pay their rent or a fair share of the profits they were earning on this leased land. Incredibly, they began to think that the property and all that was set up belonged to them and that they should keep all the profits, so they resorted to killing every legitimate debt-collector who showed up. The last straw in the sad tale occurs when these “tenants” even kill the owner’s son, thinking that then the whole operation will then be theirs to keep and they could do as they pleased at last without any rules. Instead, they end up being 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).
Some in this world would prefer to kill off any mention or awareness of “God” and in essence place humankind in this position—as if the very idea of a “Creator” of the world is a threat to them. Yet the fact remains that this is God’s world – he sets the rules because he created us and everything else, whether we choose to believe this or not. 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.