Coworkers in the Vineyard

Jesus opens our Gospel with a parable, There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.  The important question we must ask right away is who/what are the key players in this parable? The key players are the landowner, the vineyard, and the tenants.

The landowner is God; he is the one who creates the vineyard and does everything right. The vineyard refers specifically to the Jewish people, God’s chosen people.  Finally, the tenants are the scribes and the pharisees, those called to look after God’s people. Jesus’ hope is to strike the hearts of the religious leaders by calling them to the carpet: “Look God entrusted you with this vineyard and yet you have no fruit.” Instead of being good stewards, you, scribes and pharisees, have been self-seeking owners like the tenants in the parable.  They want to keep the profit, the fruits of the vineyard, for themselves and not give it to God.  

Jesus’ parable remains very relevant for us today.  The landowner once again represents God.  The vineyard is now the Church – all of us; again, God’s chosen people; not just Jews, but Jews, Greeks, and all of us (all people baptized and those yet to be baptized).  The tenants are those called to serve the Church in a specific way; we may think that the tenants are just priests, bishops, and lay leaders but really, all the baptized are the tenants of the vineyard.  All of us are tenants in the vineyard, and God wants all of us to be good stewards as coworkers in the vineyard; His Church.

Last week the Saint Pius community said goodbye to a good priest and good pastor, Fr. Chris.  I am very grateful to him.  He has been an excellent steward of this parish.  As he leaves this parish Saint Pius is healthy and well.  The church has grown during his time here, and it has many committed members/volunteers, and the people continue to desire to grow in their faith.  I could not ask for a better first assignment as a pastoral administrator of a parish.  Fr. Christ was a good steward of this parish and it has borne much fruit.  I confess that I feel a deep sense of responsibility from this Gospel to follow his example and to be a good steward of Saint Pius X Church.

And so, God’s message for us this weekend strikes me to the core.  And with that I find great comfort in these words from St. Paul in our second reading, Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Brothers and sisters, I’d be lying if I said I had no nerves at all about this assignment.  I don’t have all the answers. And I will make mistakes. But nerves aren’t all bad it means we care and want to do well. So, what I can promise all of you is this: I will give my very best and I will love you with all my heart.  As a steward of this parish, as a tenant of this vineyard, of Saint Pius X church, I desire nothing more than for this community to be fruitful.

This past week I spent some time in prayer and read from a biography on Saint Pius X, because I wanted to learn more about him.  When he became Bishop, he said these words to his people, and I repeat them to you as a personal pledge:

“When Jesus Christ gave to St. Peter the charge of his sheep and of his lambs he asked him three times for the assurance of his love, thus getting him to understand that love is the greatest necessity for a shepherd of souls.  From this moment I gather you all into my heart” Saint Pius says, “I love you with a strong supernatural love, desiring but the good of your souls. For you are all my family… My heart and my love are yours and from you I ask nothing but the same love in return… I am ready to make any sacrifice for the salvation of souls. You who have zeal for the things of God, work with me,” be coworkers with me in the vineyard, “help me, and God will give us the grace necessary to achieve our ends.”

Together, I cannot wait to see the beautiful things God will do in this parish.  Please pray for me as I begin here and know of my prayers for all of you. And may we be coworkers in the vineyard as we seek to bring God’s love to more and more people in the Saint Pius community.

In Christ’s love and friendship,

Fr. Stephen

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