As soon as I was old enough, my parents would put me in charge of watching my two younger siblings when they would go out. If they didn’t listen to me, I would put them in time-out, which meant they were pretty much in time-out every time my parents went out. One day they decided that they wouldn’t listen to me anymore, so I called my parents because they were ganging up on me!
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about a vineyard owner, who at harvest-time sends servants, and ultimately his son, to collect his produce from his tenants. The tenants did not accept them as representatives of the vineyard owner, and in disrespecting them, ultimately disrespected the vineyard owner, showing that they would rather be their own master.
Because my siblings did not respect my authority as the one my parents put in charge when they were gone, they did not respect my parents. They wanted to be in charge of themselves. The only problem was that my parents had not asked me to discipline my siblings; they had only asked me to keep an eye on them. In my own way, I was taking advantage of being put in charge, and trying just as much as my siblings to be a law unto myself.
Do we also reject the authority of God? Maybe we do this in outright ways by choosing to sin, but very often this happens in more subtle ways. We might feel a tug to pray but choose to watch TV instead. We might know that we need to reach out to that one person who really annoys us, but we instead choose to ignore them and talk to our friends. Or maybe there is one part of our life that we don’t want to surrender to Jesus yet because we don’t want to give that thing up yet.
Jesus ends the parable by saying, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” He doesn’t do this as a master over a servant, but as a loving Father.
In John 15, Jesus calls Himself the True Vine, and us the branches. We can bear fruit if we abide in Him. Instead of desiring to be in charge of ourselves, we become so united with Jesus, the Vine, that our wills become one. We are no longer hired servants working for wages, but we simply want to do His will because we know this is what will make us truly happy, and because, as beloved children of the Father, we desire to return that love He has given us.
Unlike my siblings’ desire to do whatever they wanted when my parents were gone, or my desire to take over when they put me in charge, we are called to surrender to God. By doing this, we are able to bear fruit because we have united ourselves to the True Vine, Jesus Christ.