Thursday, March 12, 2009

Given to a People That Will Produce Its Fruit

March 13, 2009

Friday of the Second Week in Lent

By Melanie Rigney

Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic. When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him. (Genesis 37:3-4)

They shackled (Joseph’s) feet with chains; collared his neck in iron, till his prediction came to pass, and the word of the Lord proved him true. (Psalms 105:18-19)

(Jesus told the chief priests and elders the parable of the vineyard tenants who mistreated or killed first the absentee owner’s servants and then his son. He asked them:) “What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him,He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes’? 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.” (Matthew 21:41-43)


Lord, let me see the Kingdom in others and partake in the fruit You and they so richly offer.


A friend read something I’d written about my mother’s death and how my siblings and I amicably divided up her belongings. “It really shook me that you started crying only after the house was empty, because you were so empty yourself,” he said. “Thanks,” I said, thinking, Ha! I cried then because it was the first chance that week I had time to cry.

I read a friend’s second novel and gushed, “Character A was soooo patient as he waited for Character B to realize they were in love. The language sounded so natural. It happened to you and your spouse just like that, didn’t it?” “Of course,” he said, then laughed and added, “Of course not. There’s no way I’d ever be that smooth in real life.”

That’s the thing about the reader-writer covenant. Sometimes we get exactly what the writer intended. Sometimes the story takes on a life of its own.

Consider today’s Gospel reading. So God is the vineyard, the Jewish leaders are the bad tenants, Jesus is the son, and followers of Christ are the ones who will take over the vineyard and produce its fruit, right?

Or maybe, as the author of a 1985 Christian Century article ( opines, maybe the Israelites were the vineyard, the tenants were the Babylonians, Persians, Romans, and others, and that in the future, “only non-Jews who are willing to protect Israel and encourage it to bear fruit will be given control over it.”

Or maybe the point is to show Jesus as the cornerstone in building a better world for both Jews and Gentiles.

Or maybe church theologians added heavily to a basic parable to advance their own agenda, as the New American Bible notes on the passage indicate.

But no matter which interpretation works for you, one takeaway remains, and that’s personal responsibility. The Kingdom of God is to be given to “a people that will produce its fruit.” Not folks who whine and complain about the unfairness of life, like Joseph’s brothers in today’s first reading. Not folks who take baby steps to rectify wrongs, like the brothers who advocate putting Joseph into a cistern and selling him to a passing caravan rather than killing him. Not folks who try to cheat others out of what’s rightfully theirs, like the tenants in the Gospel reading.

No, the fruit producers will be the people like Joseph, who dare to dream and share those dreams and act upon them. It’s that type of boldness that God wants. Let your own story in Christ take on a life of its own.


The Arlington Cursillo’s 128th Women’s Weekend is under way at Missionhurst. Pray that the Holy Spirit feeds the team and candidate with the fire to produce fruit for the Kingdom.

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