When Jesus warned that those who are rich will have a difficult time entering the kingdom of heaven, He meant those of us who live very comfortable, stable and secure lives. He knew that hearing that — as we do in the Scripture readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time — would be very difficult for us to follow.
The Scriptures challenge us to see our time on earth and all the possessions we have as being entrusted to us by God and not ours to do with as we wish. The parables clearly state that the vineyard belongs to someone other than the workers, not to us. We live in God’s vineyard, which has been entrusted, not entitled, to us.
Each of us has been entrusted with some form of the vineyard of God. In addition to our own lives, many of us are entrusted with the care of other people or other things. The earth is not ours, but we have been entrusted with it. We all have families, parishes, communities of friends and other human beings around us. They are all entrusted to us, but not ours in ownership. Since we are not the owners, we have a responsibility to live out that call.
If we start with our own lives, we can do a simple inventory to see how we are caring for this life that has been entrusted to us. Are we doing all the things that are necessary to keep us balanced in body, mind and spirit? Are we doing everything we can to till the soil of our lives? If we’re watching something on TV or on the computer, is it enriching and lifting up our lives, or is it simply providing numbness?
In our use of the resources that have been entrusted to us, are we conscious of our use of clean water? Are we conscious of how much of the earth’s resources we are consuming? Are we conscious of the kind of earth that we are leaving for our children and our grandchildren? Are we taking responsibility for our overuse and overconsumption of the resources that are placed before us? Are we tending the vineyard of God or abusing it?
Many of us have been entrusted with the care and guidance of other human beings. For some, that is our family, but for others, those are the people who observe our lives and know what we supposedly stand for in terms of belief. If we have truly been entrusted with the care of another, are we keeping them in mind as we make our own choices? Do we care at all about how our actions affect the rest of humanity?
What is most chilling about the Scriptures this weekend is that the vineyard owner is willing to take the vineyard away from those who have been in trusted with it and give it to someone who will produce good fruit. To be able to move from entitlement to actually being servants in the vineyard takes a great amount of humility. It means that we are willing to live by the wisdom of God and not our own wisdom.
I know most of us are trying to live a good life, and most of us believe in Jesus Christ. But have we become satisfied with living a life that is not sacrificial? Have we become so accustomed to the way that we live, that we feel insulted that God would ask us to grow and change? Is there any room in our minds and hearts for the prophetic message that God keeps trying to give us? If we hear the message, are we willing to make some changes so that we become more the workers in the vineyard and not the owners of the vineyard?
Father Donald Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.