God has a project. The project of God is to build a garden of delight in this life for all people to enjoy. The kingdom of God is this garden that bears the fruit of joy and happiness in our lives. This garden is a vineyard that will yield the fruits of the kingdom and allow all human persons to share in the joys and delight of the divine life of grace. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God gives us a hint as to what his intention is in planning this elaborate vineyard, which is his people, that will bear the fruit of a beautiful and joyous harvest of life-giving fruit. God says through the prophet, “They shall be my people, and I will be their God. One heart and one way I will give them, that they may fear me always, to their own good and that of their children after them. I will make with them an eternal covenant, never to cease doing good to them; into their hearts I will put the fear of me, that they may never depart from me. I will take delight in doing good to them: I will replant them firmly in this land, with all my heart and soul.” (Jer 32,41ff)
Jesus takes up this theme in the gospel of John when he says to his disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.” (Jn 15,1) “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” (Jn 15,11) The wisdom writer Sirach reflects on the abundant life, “Wine is very life to man if taken in moderation. Does he really live who lacks the wine which was created for his joy?” (Sir 31,27) God, the vine grower, wants to give us wine in our lives to make our hearts glad and to share in his own joy in life. The very first miracle that Jesus works is to turn water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana. Mary speaks to the very heart of Jesus when she reveals to him, “They have no wine.” (Jn 2,3) The Lord speaks in words of love through the Song of Songs, “Draw me! We will follow you eagerly! Bring me, O king, to your chambers. With you we rejoice and exult, we extol your love; it is beyond wine: how rightly you are loved!”
The wine that God pours into our hearts through his Holy Spirit is the pure vintage of his love. The vineyard of the Lord is meant to produce the fruits of the Spirit. St. Paul speaks to the Galatians about the fruits of the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal 5,22f) The wine of God’s love is cultivated to bring joy and happiness into the lives of his children. Isaiah speaks to us of God’s project of building this vineyard that is meant to produce cultivated grapes that will be pressed into the fine wine of God’s love: “Let me now sing of my friend, my friend’s song concerning his vineyard. My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes.” (Is 5,1ff) God is the friend of humankind who had great hopes for his friends in building a vineyard. God’s grace fashions a relationship of friendship with his people. Jesus extends that grace to his disciples when he tells them, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.” (Jn 15,14ff) God works assiduously to bring wine, love and joy, to his friends but what is produced in the hearts of his friends is the wild grapes of selfish interest.
Once again in the parable of Jesus, we see the Master vine grower, God the Father, work meticulously and tirelessly to provide a vineyard that will produce the good fruit of love. After establishing his vineyard he entrusts it to others and goes off to a distant land. While he is absent, the hearts of his “friends” turn against him and they violently pursue their selfish ends. All God wants is a rightful return on his love and friendship. The absence of God is a problem for humankind. In the absence of God, the fool says in his heart that there is no God, and sets about ridding the world of the Master’s servants, even his own Son. What a tragic turnaround! With all his heart and soul, God just wants to do good for his friends, he wants them to produce a wine that will bring joy to their lives. What more can he do? What will it take for all of us to be grafted onto the vine of Christ and produce the fruit that yields the fine wine of a joy and love that will remain? Our final hope is “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.” (Rom 5,20) God is still offering us the wine of Christ’s blood which flows from his sacred heart. God will never cease doing good.