LIII. Beyond the wine that is the fruit of the vine, as seen at Cana, Jesus also gives Himself the title of the True Vine. This too has rich Scriptural roots. Isaiah 5:1-7 is the Song of the Vineyard. For Israel, the “vineyard” was symbolic of a bride – cherished, protected by her husband, fruitful. This meaning is already understood in Isaiah’s parable, and the failure of the vineyard to produce the expected yield of grapes would symbolize the bride’s infidelity, disappointing the trust and hope of her spouse. But this story does not refer to any particular individual, but rather to Israel itself, beloved and chosen by God but unfaithful to the covenant. The same image and theme are reflected later by the author of Psalm 80, a prayer to God to “protect the vine you have planted.”
This parable of the vineyard is quoted by Jesus in his teaching, but with some changes, introducing the sending of the owner’s son who is killed by the tenants. This is not merely a statement of the past, as Jesus was speaking of the current state of the rejection of His mission; it is true for every age. The vineyard is entrusted to our care, to make it yield fruit for the Kingdom of God. We do so in our families, our parishes, our relationships, our work and leisure. But ultimately, this parable is about God intervening to do something new, and that happens continually in time, each time we gather for the Eucharist where the Son makes His offering on the Cross present and real in our midst. We have eternal life only through Him – Jesus Who is the vine, and we who are branches of that vine, with a living connection to Him. Only by remaining in Him do we bear this fruit of love (see John 15:1-10).