Many of the religious leaders that Jesus had to encounter were men who claimed to “own” the vineyard of the Chosen People. They wanted to control the Law and its interpretation, which included how people related with each other and those outside their culture. Jesus makes it clear: the vineyard belongs to God and has been “entrusted” to your leadership to lead and guide God’s people to live lives that produce the “fruit” of justice, mercy, obedience to the Law, compassion for the excluded.
The church is an extension of this image of the vineyard which belongs to Christ. The church has been entrusted to leaders who are called to serve, to give their lives for others. Over time and centuries, the leaders placed themselves in privileged positions of a power that needed to control people’s lives. Many of us who lead today are no different than the leaders Jesus had to deal with, leaders who eventually had Jesus killed. We can act as though we own the church and have been sent to recreate each parish in the way we see fit. No dialogue, just a series of commands to be followed.
God has formed this vineyard of the church, grounded in the passion, death and Resurrection of His Son, to produce fruit. The church, Christ’s church, is planted in the world to spread the Good News, to live out the Beatitudes, to celebrate the Eucharist as food for the task. We beat fruit when we are united with each other in Christ so that we can create communities in which the various ministries are not “owned” by any priest or lay leader.
We have been entrusted with a parish, and we don’t “own” the community. We build community on trust, dialogue,and respect for its unique gifts that are at the service of the larger church. Leaders, ordained and lay, come and go. The worst thing to happen to a parish is for the leadership to become stagnant and controlling. New leaders must be called forth to bring new life to the parish.