But are we listening for an answer?
In the Book of Isaiah, the prophet takes the people of Israel to task for their infidelity to God, who has planted the choicest vines in his vineyard, hoping to celebrate the good fruit his vines – the people themselves – would produce. He cares for his vineyard in every possible way, but what it yielded was wild grapes, a radical (and unwelcome) shift in how the hearts of the people are directed, which is to say, according to their own desire for control, away from the Lord rather than toward him. They clearly are not listening. Echoing this passage from Isaiah, Psalm 80 begs the Lord to take care of this vine and protect what God’s right hand has planted, promising that the people will no more withdraw from God, will turn back to God rather than dwell in the wasteland they themselves have created.
The chief priests and elders of the people in Jesus’ time would have been entirely aware of this lesson from Isaiah as Jesus confronts them, in Matthew’s Gospel, with a parable about – what else? – a landowner who planted a vineyard. Here, it is the tenants of the vineyard who are indicted for turning from God; Jesus also predicts that they will seize the son, throw him out of the vineyard, and kill him. The chief priests and elders have rejected the one God has sent; they have read their scripture, but do they understand Jesus’ message? Do they realize that he is giving them the opportunity to turn around, to turn back? Are they listening?
Paul’s Letter to the Philippians suggests one path back to God: by prayer and petition. It is through prayer that we open ourselves to God, rather than remaining anxious, closing down, turning away from the Lord. When we open to God, allowing God to work in our lives, we are filled with all that is true and honorable and just, all that is pure and lovely and gracious. We are called to this conscious act, called to turn to God always with our needs, through prayer and petition, and, of course, to listen, that we might know, not bloodshed but the very peace of God.
This post is based on Fr. Pat’s Scripture class.
Image source: Wordle
Image source: Wordle