Cultivating the vineyard in our minds

Two of today's three Bible readings, Isaiah 5:1-7 and Matthew 21:33-43, as well as the Psalm (80:9, 12-16, 19-20), are about planting vineyards. Both Isaiah's poem and Jesus's allegory talk about an owner who set up the vineyards well and expected good yields, in the latter case it was through obtaining the produce from the tenants he leased the vineyard to. However, both owners did not get their wishes. In Isaiah, the vineyard yielded wild grapes; in Matthew, the tenants beat or killed the servants sent by the owner to collect the produce, including his own son.

What were the outcomes? Fury of the owners in both cases. The first owner decided to make the vineyard a ruin, while the other resolved to "put those wretched men to a wretch death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times".

Both the Isaiah poem and the Psalm referred to the vineyard as "the house of Israel". In my own reflection, the vineyard can be our own minds. We do not respond well to the careful and loving tending of God, the owner. We do not manage our minds well and let greed take over. This view seems to be shared by Larry Gillick of Creighton University, who said this in his Daily Reflection column:

"We are cultivated by many differing laborers. Our spirits are similar to the land… We can be smothered by the locusts of materialistic greed which devour simplicity and gratitude. It is difficult to offer our faces to the warmth of the sun when we are burdened with the discouraging pulls of the earthly gravitational downness."

What is the way out? Good advice was offered by St Paul and Jesus. St Paul suggested "prayer and petition, with thanksgiving". He also suggested that we think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and gracious; excellence; and anything worthy of praise. He assured us that the God of peace will be with us, and we will have the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. Jesus suggested that we turn to Him for help. After telling the vineyard story, He quoted the following from Psalm 118:22:

"The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
but he Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?"

He, Jesus, is the Stone. Let us not reject Him but make Him the cornerstone when we strive to build our mind into a sacred temple or, to use the analogy today, turn our mind into a vineyard that produces good grapes.

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