Grace to you!
If you’ve ever invested so much in a person, but find he or she is wasteful and unproductive, it hurts. Doesn’t it?
Wastefulness and lack of proper stewardship is a terrible vice. For us Catholics, it is a sin against justice.
In the Gospel of Matthew chapter twenty-one, verses thirty-three to forty-three, Our Lord Jesus Christ, using a parable, addressed the elders and chief priests of the people. It’s called the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. The parable was essentially a rephrasing and deepening of the prophecy of Isaiah 5:1-7.
In the parable, the Blessed Lord tells us that the owner of the vineyard (meaning God the Father) provided everything needed for the vine to produce (Mt 21:33-34). He leased it to tenants to take care of the vineyard for proper stewardship and accountability, leading to fruitfulness (v. 35). But when the time for accountability (harvest) came, those tenants opposed the vineyard owner and his messengers (meaning the prophets he sent to teach them). When the owner finally sent his son to them, thinking they would respect his son, they killed him. Of course, Jesus was referring to himself, as the authorities will eventually kill.
Finally, Jesus delivers a note of warning, reminding his audience (including us), that rejecting the Gift of God—namely Christ—doesn’t stop the Lord Jesus Christ from being the pillar of the house. It is the divine will, and nothing can change it.
Nevertheless, for those who reject Christ: “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit” (Mt 21:43). It is a strong warning to them and us since the parable applies to us today.
God has provided every grace we need in his vineyard (the Church in the world) to produce fruits. The grace of righteousness, actual grace, different graces that come from the sacraments and prayer, gifts, talents, and the opportunity of being sons and daughters of God. The Lord has already supplied all we need (Jn 1:16; 2 Pet 1:13).
Accountability, fruitfulness, is demanded of everyone—the clergy and the laity. Fruitfulness is the life of holiness. The fruits are what Saint Paul told us in Galatians 5: 22-23—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, etc. These are the fruits of righteousness that show personal, responsible stewardship. It’s the fruitfulness of a personal order.
There are other fruits too that relate to the mission of the Church and the believer. The Church’s mission in the world is to evangelize and bear fruit. This kind of fruit, in addition to the personal, such as I have shown above, has to do with being witnesses of Christ to the world so, through our words and actions (works), people may give glory to God in heaven (Mt 5:16), and by God’s grace, be drawn to faith in Christ. This is the fruitfulness of the ecclesial order.
As Pope Francis emphasized in his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Christian discipleship is “missionary discipleship” (2013, paras. 14, 119-121). It is because we have to bring as many people as possible to Christ. We have to be fruitful. It is integral to our being as believers.
Hence, personal fruitfulness and ecclesial fruitfulness are all expected from us. Remember that God has already provided the grace to do so.
For us to bear fruits, as those who already have faith, Scripture reminds us we have to adopt a unique attitude, what Saint Paul describes as “having the mind of Christ” (Phil 2:5). It entails a disposition of total obedience to God. Always thinking about holy things, such as whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, things of excellence, and worthy of praise (Phil 4:8). It is not just about thinking; it’s about allowing our thoughts to influence (or become) what we do by God’s grace. It is not only faith but also faith in action. There is always an ethical dimension to our faith. We believe, think, speak, and act—bearing fruit.
When we attune to the “soul of the apostolate,” the Spirit of Christ, we bear fruit and evangelize others. So, let’s get to work. By the grace of God, let us practice virtue and work for the salvation of souls. Do good deeds and renew the world. God’s grace is sufficient for us to do so.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Twenty Seventh Sunday Ordinary Time A: Is 5:1-7; Phil 4:6-9; Mt 21:33-43]