Like what you’re reading? Check out the archive of past reflections.
by Julie Massey, Director, Program of Faith, Learning & Vocation and Campus Ministry - St. Norbert College
“The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to the people that will produce its fruit.” So ends today’s gospel passage from Matthew. The passage is rich in vineyard imagery that would have been familiar to the people of Jesus’ time, metaphors clearly linked to the first reading from Isaiah. Scholars dispute whether a simpler form of this vineyard parable was uttered by Jesus or whether the whole metaphor comes to us as theology from the later church.
Whoever wins that debate, what does this passage mean for us, as we try to live our faith? Recall that Jesus is addressing the chief priests and the elders. Perhaps this is an important warning for any of us who become too comfortable in believing we know God. Or know precisely what faithfulness looks like. Surely the chief priests and elders of Jesus’ time believed they knew what a faithful life was.
But, the last line tells us, the kingdom of God will be entrusted to those who bear its fruits. What fruit is expected of the people of Israel and later the followers of Christ? Communal shalom – a state in which the needs of the least are cared for and peace pervades all creation. And love, above all else. This is the fruit God seeks to produce in the world; the fruit we are invited to tend. Through the goodness of God’s grace we might glimpse the kingdom of God in the office of a high-ranking church official or the dorm room of a student struggling to piece together belief in God while her family back home falls apart. Neither is a certain member of God’s kingdom. Neither is definitely excluded. All of us, each one of us, are invited to take part in the kingdom of God, if we are willing to tend to the fruits of peace and love.