This Sunday, Jesus narrates another parable.
A landowner developed a vineyard. He took great care of it: He put a border around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Since he would be travelling to another country, he had it leased to some tenants. It happened that the harvest season drew near; he sent his servants to the tenants to get his harvest. Instead, the tenants beat one of his servants, killed another, and stoned another.
The landowner, though utterly disappointed, did not lose heart; he sent more servants the next time around. But they were also treated similar with those who went there the first time.
Thinking that the tenants would respect his son since he is his, he finally sent him.
When the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.” Hence, the son also suffered the same fate. He was also killed.
Jesus must have paused here to inquire from his audience: “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.”
The Gospel pericope this Sunday (Mt. 21:33-43) showcases a contrast of epic proportions: We have on one hand the goodness of the landowner who epitomizes God, and on the other hand, the evil which finds its embodiment in the wicked tenants.
The landowner’s goodness is highlighted in giving his tenants considerable chance to shape up as illustrated by the two groups of messengers he sent them to pass on this message: honor the contract, give me the yield of the vineyard.
But the tenants were deaf to the message of the landowner. Or better yet, they decided not to listen anymore. Worse, they killed the son of the landowner to transmit an unmistakeable message: They didn’t anymore care.
Betrayal is such one message which the whole of humanity is naturally allergic to. Aware of this, Jesus used this element in his parable in order to drive home His point: Deep is a wound that is caused by betrayal.
The landowner showed he was willing to trust his tenants despite their failing him twice. His sending his son over to them indicated that he willed to be vulnerable to them.
The chest is a dog’s most vulnerable part, my spirital director told me once. As such, a dog only exposes this to those whom he considered his masters, to few friends he could exposed his vulnerability. Once exposed, they could either tickle him there, or God forbid, he could be kicked right on that spot.
This parable exemplifies how an all-powerful God could be reduced into someone who is limited, not because He wished to be tickled.
But because first and foremost, He loves.
We are challenged to do likewise.