The Gospel of Mark (12:1-12)
Jesus began to speak to the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and left on a journey. At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent them another servant. And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully. He sent yet another whom they killed. So, too, many others; some they beat, others they killed. He had one other to send, a beloved son. He sent him to them last of all, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come, put the tenants to death, and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture passage: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?” They were seeking to arrest him, but they feared the crowd, for they realized that he had addressed the parable to them. So they left him and went away.
Reflection: To understand this parable, you need to understand who represents whom. The religious leaders of Israel were the tenants, the vineyard was the Jewish nation, God the Father was the man who planted the vineyard, the many servants sent to gather the produce were the prophets of old, and Jesus was the Beloved Son Who was killed. The parable concludes by saying that the owner of the vineyard (God the Father) will put the tenants to death and give the vineyard to others. In other words, the scribes, Pharisees, chief priests and elders would soon have their religious authority taken away from them, and it would be given to the Apostles and their successors.
This parable is especially important for anyone who exercises some form of authority. Parents exercise authority within the home. Bishops and priests exercise authority within the Church. Our boss exercises authority over us at work and sometimes with our family life. Some people think they have the authority to say things to the marginalized. The same applies to the rich and famous. And the list goes on. They all think they are better than others. Everywhere we turn there is some level of authority for us. But when we even exercise a certain amount of spiritual authority when we seek to fulfill our unique mission in life.
The lesson from this parable is simple: don’t abuse your authority. In fact, who said we have any authority at all over our sisters and brothers. For instance, the ONLY people that can exercise authority over me is GOD and my wife Connie (and that’s because I don’t like sleeping on the couch). Seriously though, there is a certain amount of respect and obedience that we must maintain in our lives for everyone, but it should never be abused.
Just because you’re a Leader, or a boss, or whatever and possess some level of authority doesn’t mean that you can order folks around with vulgarity. Don’t exercise authority according to your own will; exercise it with humility and humbly only in accord with God’s will. Trust and cooperation, and in turn, authority, are earned through consistent commitment to integrity, service, and love. Authority is earned when your people realize that over time—decision after decision—you are looking out for their best interest and treating them with compassion and respect.
When a duty of leadership is entrusted to a person, the leader is also entrusted with the spiritual authority to fulfill that duty in accord with the mind and will of God. This requires constant humility so that it is only God’s will that is fulfilled. Seek to exercise all authority in accord with the mind and will of God, and the vineyard entrusted to your care will bear an abundance of good fruit.
Action of the Day: Think about the people that you may have hurt by your authority. Pray for those who are verbally abused and pray for those who are marginalized.