Bad Fruit or Good Fruit
In Matthew chapter 21, there are two parables, which Jesus uses to illustrate the Israelites’ attitude toward God the Savior. Listening to these parables, we can feel how much God loves us when He uses different methods in order to awake sinners.
Last Sunday, 26th in Ordniary Time, we heard the parable about the attitudes of two sons; one obeys and the other disobeys their Father. Israel is like a son who disobeys his Father even though he receives the Commandments from God through Moses.
This Sunday (27th) the first Reading from Isaiah lets us know how much God cares for the vineyard of the Lord, the house of Israel. God gives Israel law and land with a hope that they can bear fruits to glorify God’s name among the world, so that all people can have life. With a good preparation for his vineyard, God expects the vineyard to yield good grapes, but it produces only bad ones. Following idolatries, worshipping ba’al, living unjustly will definitely bear “wild grapes.” As a result, six “woes” will be brought on the land of Israel. The cost for living this truth is high, including self-giving for Christ and others.
The cost for living this truth is high, including self-giving for Christ and others.
In the Gospel, we listen to the parable about the tenants and the vineyard. Jesus uses this parable in order to affirm that God loves Israel and expects them to bear good fruit. God sent many prophets in the Old Testament in order to serve them, but they mistreated them and killed them. God continues to love them; no matter what attitude of the Israelites toward God, He still loves them by sending his only Son to save them. Unfortunately, the Israelites rejected Him and killed His only Son.
The parable about the tenants and the vineyard also implies the kingdom of God that is planted in the world. The Master continues to “recruit” workers for his vineyard, but the world rejects the Master’s workers. Many of them are imprisoned, rejected, and killed.
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Many Roman Emperors tried to destroy Christianity. One of them, Diocletian (245-313), was particularly violent in his hatred of the Bible and Christianity. He killed so many Christians, with such outrageous cruelties, and destroyed so many Bibles, that many Christians “went underground” and hid themselves from his wrath. When it seemed to Diocletian that he had brought about the end of them, he had a medal coined with this motto on it: “The Christian religion is destroyed, and the worship of the (Roman) gods is restored.” In fact, you know how wrong Diocletian was!
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What lesson can we learn from the Reading? All servants of Christ will be misunderstood, rejected, and condemned in different ways. The truth is that “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Mt 10:24). Like many other disciples of Christ, we are sent to live the truth and to proclaim the truth. The cost for living this truth is high, including self-giving for Christ and others. Living in this way, the truth of God’s love can be revealed to the world, and even to those who often condemn us.
For personal application, the Gospel also warns us about our attitude toward God’s servants. They are not perfect people, but they are chosen to serve God and his Church in certain ministries. Like many of us, their ultimate calling is to be holy; therefore their struggles for holiness is very much like ours. Thus, we cannot expect and demand too much from them; but our responsibility is to co-operate with them in love and humility. Do not reject, condemn, and “kill” them with words, attitudes, and actions, but love and learn to accept them as God has accepted each one of us.
If God continues loving us by giving his Son to us daily in the Eucharist, then there is no reason for us to stop loving others and stop serving one another in our family, parish, and society.
 Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996).