The parable of the «assassin tenants» is a story in which Jesus goes about describing God’s history with the chosen people with allegorical accents. It is a sad story. God has taken care of this people from the beginning with complete tenderness. They were God’s «chosen vineyard». God was hoping to make of them a model people for justice and fidelity. They would be a “great light” for all peoples.
However that people went about rejecting and killing one after another the prophets that God was sending them to harvest the fruits of a more just life. Finally, in an incredible act of love, God sent them God’s own Son. But the leaders of that people made an end of him. What could God do with a people who betrays God’s hopes in such a blind and stubborn manner?
The religious leaders that are listening attentively to the story respond spontaneously in the same language as the parable: the lord of the vineyard can’t do anything but put such tenants to death and place his vineyard in the hands of others. Jesus quickly presents a conclusion that they weren’t expecting: «I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit».
Commentators and preachers have frequently interpreted Jesus’ parable as a reaffirmation of the Christian Church as «the new Israel» to follow the Jewish people that was dispersed throughout the world after Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD.
However, the parable is also talking about ourselves. An honest reading of the text forces us to ask ourselves serious questions: Are we producing in our times “the fruits” that God expects of God’s people – justice for the excluded, solidarity, compassion toward those who suffer, forgiveness…
God doesn’t have to bless a sterile Christianity from which God receives none of the fruits God is hoping for. God doesn’t have to identify Self with our mediocrity, our inconsistencies, our deviations, our little faith. If we don’t respond to God’s expectations, God will keep opening up new paths to the project of salvation with other people who produce fruits of justice.
We talk about a «religious crisis», «de-Christianization», «the abandonment of religious practice»… Won’t God prepare the path that makes possible the birth of a Church that is less powerful but more evangelical, less numerous but more given to build a more human world? Won’t there arise new generations that are more faithful to God than ourselves?
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf