Fecundity as a Gift to the World – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today we have Matthew’s version of the parable of the vineyard owner and the wicked tenants who seized the slaves and then the son. The parable refers to the arrival of the harvest time. Commentators make a connection between this phrase and Matthew’s desire that we think of the nearness of the kingdom of God.
The story comes just after Matthew refers to the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. The final verse of the excerpt makes Jesus’ point that the kingdom will be taken away from his listeners and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. Scripture scholars tell us that this point is the evangelist’s main contribution to the parable, a story that is also found in Mark and Luke.
It’s good for us to ask how we are producing the fruits of the kingdom. How am I living out my fruitfulness? Have you ever noticed how often Jesus speaks of bearing fruit? Before speaking of the fruit we bear, it helps to consider what is our vineyard.
It could be family or community life, church involvements, our labours and creative endeavours, or the created world in which we live. It’s really all of those aspects of life. We cannot limit ourselves to tending to one little part of the vineyard. How are we tending to the entire vineyard we have been given? How are we bearing fruit in each dimension of life?
Bearing fruit in our lives is something that is achieved for our good and for the good of others, both those alive now and for future generations. That is the case whether we are doing our share of protecting the beauty of creation or being loving in our care for our children, grandchildren, or students.
It’s when we grow more deeply into caring for our vineyard, that we discover that it’s not really our vineyard. Rather, we are merely the tenants of the Lord’s vineyard. And, even though my life and my engagement is the part of the Lord’s vineyard that I tend, I only do that in union with others. We work together in building the Kingdom of God. The Lord, as the prime vine grower, expects fruit from me.
I long ago read the 20th century spiritual writer Henri Nouwen’s 1986 book Lifesigns: Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective. I remember being struck by it, so I went back to re-read parts of it. Here’s a line that sums up what he is saying: When Jesus himself and all humanity through him have become our true home, we can become truly fecund or fruitful people.
As Nouwen says, the word fecundity is not part of everyday conversation. Indeed, I remember going to a dictionary (real in those days, not virtual) to see what the word meant. But, he says, that the notion of being fruitful puts us in touch with our deepest human potential to bring forth life.
We are all called to bring forth life. It’s wonderful when it is a child. It’s also wonderful when it is any project that builds up people and contributes to the Kingdom of God. How am I bringing forth life?