The Vineyard of Our Life
And Jesus began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And the vineyard-keeper answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this one more year, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’” Luke 13:6 – 9
In biblical times, the fruitful fig tree was symbolic of Israel achieving its highest spiritual potential. For a fig tree to be barren represents a sad loss of what might have been. Each of us is like a fig tree in God’s vineyard.
Our loving Creator sends each of us into the world with a very special gift — the potential for forming and maintaining loving relationships with others. And like the fig tree, God plants each of us in a vineyard. We bear fruit when we realize our potential for loving others; we are barren when we are isolated and untouchable.
The vineyard in which we live consists of the multiple roles and responsibilities we have in our life. Some of us are husbands, fathers, brothers, doctors, teachers, or taxi drivers; some are mothers, wives, sisters, attorneys, executives, or waitresses. In each of these cases, the role that we play and the responsibilities that go with it offer us the potential for bearing fruit or being barren. What makes the difference is how well we love.
God cares very little about how much money we make or what side of the tracks we live on. When the time comes — and it will in each of our lives — for us to sit side by side with our God and watch the video of our life play out before our eyes; it will only be our relationships with others that count: how willing were we to forgive; how open to trust; how much risk were we ready to take for those people next to whom God has planted us in the vineyard of life?
Jesus reminds us of this in the above Gospel. When the owner of the vineyard gets fed up with the fig tree’s inability to bear fruit, he wants to cut it down. But the vineyard worker asks him to give the tree one more opportunity to bear fruit. “Let it alone, sir, for this one more year, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, then cut it down.”
Jesus is the vineyard worker in our life. Perhaps this year is that ‘one more year’ that Jesus, our vineyard worker, has asked for on our behalf. Perhaps it is our last chance to bear fruit in our relationships with others before being cut down and carted off by that big Department of Public Works truck in the sky.
If there are relationships in our lives that have been damaged, let us use this one more year to reach out with forgiveness — or contrition — but above all with love to heal those relationships. Let us offer our loving Father in heaven a basket full of fruit from the vineyard of our life.
Lex Ferrauiola is a husband, father, grandfather and a Catholic deacon serving as a pastoral minister and hospital chaplain within the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. His newest book, All Shall Be Well: Finding God Among the Pots and the Pans is available now.
$12.00 available at Amazon.com and through local booksellers (ISBN-13 979-8767368921)