2nd Friday of Lent
Sometimes a vineyard is not just a vineyard. In one of his homilies, St Basil compares the individual soul to a vine in the Lord’s vineyard. He said: “You need only to look at the vine to be reminded of your own nature. No doubt you remember the image used by the Lord in which he says that he is the vine and the Father the vine dresser. Each of us who have been grafted onto the Church by faith he calls branches, and he urges us to bear much fruit”.
In other words, Israel, the vine planted by the Lord, is a symbol of each human being, and the history of Israel is the history of your soul, and mine.
In the Gospel this morning, it was God, the landowner of the parable, who planted the vineyard, which would have been recognized as Israel. All God’s hopes were set upon this vine, so that he could collect its produce. These are the hopes God has for us, what he expects from each individual soul. The whole drama of sacred history is in this contrast between the soul’s infidelity and God’s fidelity.
In the first reading, the sons of Jacob show no love for their brother Joseph, and say, “Come on, let us kill him”. But instead they sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites who took Joseph to Egypt. Their infidelity was the occasion for God to show fidelity by later bringing all of Jacob’s sons to Egypt to save then from famine.
Then in this morning’s parable, God waits patiently for two thousand years, and then sends his Son in person, to save his vine at all costs. “They will respect my son”, he thinks. But the tenants say, “Come, let us kill him”. So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him by crucifixion. But even from the depths of this greatest of all infidelities, God remains faithful: he gave the vineyard to other people who will produce its fruit.
The drama of Good Friday, when the landowner’s Son was killed, becomes in God’s plan the means by which the vine planted in Israel was to break out in a new and vigorous growth. Now, through the passion and resurrection of Christ, there comes the true and faithful vine: “I am the vine, you are the branches”. The grace of God produces the fullest possible fruit in him, and in all those faithful souls who remain on the vine.
To each of them, the Father will say, as he did at the Transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”.