Today’s excerpt from the Second Letter of Peter introduces us to a God who reaches out to share good gifts. Not only has God bestowed on us “great and precious things” but the gifts have the purpose of enabling us to be sharers in the divine life itself. In the Gospel we again encounter this generous God under the figure of the vineyard owner. After taking every care to form a fine vineyard, the owner leases it to tenants. The understanding is that the tenants will share in the profits.
The difference between the two situations lies in the response of the recipients. The letter envisages a community that practices responsible stewardship, one that follows the exhortation to make “every effort to undergird your virtue with faith, your discernment with virtue, and your self-control with discernment.” Self-control will lead to piety and piety to care for others, and care for others to love. The end result is a people who, in their way of life, reflect the loving nature of the Giver of the “great and precious things.”
What a contrast to the Gospel parable! Here, the atmosphere seethes with hatred. The tenants, instead of being satisfied with their fair share in the vineyard, want to have it all. In their greed, they will stop at nothing, not even murder. In its context, the parable, spoken on the eve of the Passion, foreshadows Jesus’ death. It is also, however, a far too accurate portrait of attitudes and actions we witness in the world around us. In reflecting on these readings, I am reminded of St. Ignatius’ image of the Two Standards. No doubt, we would all choose to align ourselves with Second Peter’s loving community. Let us make every effort to bring it to pass in our own environment. Nevertheless, it is well to be aware that we all have within us elements of the passions that motivate those greedy, murderous tenants.
- Sister Mary O’Brien, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Sisters’ community in Union City, NJ.