The Vatican (Monday, October 9, 2017, Gaudium Press) The address of Pope Francis delivered before praying the midday Angelus, with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday October 8, 2017, follows (ZENIT translation)
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
This Sunday’s liturgy proposes to us the parable of the tenants, to whom the householder entrusts the vineyard that he had planted and then goes away (Cf. Matthew 21:33-43). Thus the loyalty of these tenants is put to the test: the vineyard is entrusted to them, who must look after it, make it fruitful and deliver the harvest to the householder.
The time of the harvest having arrived, the householder sends his servants to gather the fruits. However, the tenants assume a possessive attitude: they don’t consider themselves simple managers, but rather proprietors, and they refuse to deliver the harvest. They mistreat the servants, to the point of killing them. The householder is patient with them: he sends other servants, more numerous than the first; however, the outcome is the same. In the end, given his patience, he decides to send his own son, but those tenants, prisoners of their possessive behaviour, also kill the son, thinking that thus they would have the inheritance.
This story illustrates allegorically those reproaches that the Prophets voiced about the history of Israel. It’s a story that belongs to us: it speaks of the covenant that God wished to establish with humanity and in which He has also called us to participate. This covenant story, however, as every story of love, has its positive moments but is also marked by betrayals and rejections.
To make one understand how God the Father responds to refusals opposed to His love and to His proposed covenant, the evangelical passage puts a question on the lips of the owner of the vineyard: “When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” (v. 40). This question underscores that God’s disappointment over the evil behaviour of men isn’t the last word! Here is the great novelty of Christianity: A God that, although disappointed by our mistakes and our sins, does not fail in His word; He doesn’t stop and, above all, He doesn’t retaliate!
Brothers and sisters, God doesn’t retaliate! God loves, He doesn’t retaliate, He waits to forgive us, to embrace us. Through the “rejected stones” – and Christ is the first stone that the builders have rejected – through situations of weakness and sin -, God continues to put in circulation the “new wine” of his vineyard, namely mercy; this is the new wine of the Lord’s vineyard: mercy.
There is only one impediment in face of God tenacious and tender will: our arrogance and our presumption, which sometimes even becomes violence! In face of these attitudes and where no fruit is produced, the Word of God keeps all its force of reproach and admonition: “the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it” (v. 43).
The urgency to respond with fruits of goodness to the Lord’s call, who calls us to become His vineyard, helps us to understand what is new and original in Christianity. It’s not so much the sum of precepts and moral norms, but it is first of all a proposal of love that God, through Jesus, has made and continues to make to humanity. It’s an invitation to enter in this story of love, becoming a vivacious and open vineyard, rich in fruits and hope for all. A closed vineyard can become wild and produce wild grapes. We are called to come out of the vineyard and to put ourselves at the service of brothers that are not with us, to shake one another and encourage each other, to remind ourselves to be the Lord’s vineyard in every environment, including the most distant and uncomfortable.
Dear brothers and sisters, we invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy, to help us to be everywhere, especially in the peripheries of society, the vineyard that the Lord has planted for the good of all, and to bring the new wine of the Lord’s mercy.