You are viewing:   Reflecting God’s Words Weekly

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A - Oct 5, 2014

Gospel MT 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
"Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking,
'They will respect my son.'
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
'This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?"
They answered him,
"He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times."
Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?
Therefore, I say to you,
the kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit."


Reflecting & Living God’s Words

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A - Oct 5, 2014
Gospel MT 21:33-43


27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A - Oct 5, 2014

(Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43)

More and more states in our country are developing vineyards and producing unique blends of wine. Today’s readings from Isaiah and Matthew feature vineyards. How appropriate at this time of the year when in many parts of the country grapes are being harvested for wine and each region will boast of the quality of its wines.

Our first reading will give us some insight and help us enter today’s gospel parable. Isaiah’s dramatic and poetic instincts shine in his parable of the vineyard. It seems to be harvest time and the prophet is singing about his friend’s well-cared for vineyard. Notice the loving details which describe the care his friend shows towards his vineyard. Imagine the friend’s anticipation: one day he will harvest the grapes from his vineyard and enjoy the fruit of his hard labors… a fine wine. But the song ends in frustration when the owner finds wild grapes, good for nothing but sour wine, in his vineyard. The owner’s dream of festive gatherings with family and friends and the delight of those at table, as they sipped the choice wines from his vineyard, are shattered.

The scene shifts to a court room as the friend presents his case against his vineyard with the lament, "What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?" Then the prophet brings his parable home to his hearers. The owner of the vineyard is God and the vineyard Israel. The chosen people are a disappointment to God, for the Lord’s vineyard has produced only bloodshed and injustice and the cry of the poor and oppressed rise up to God.

A couple I know are going through a terrible time. Their 20 year old son was arrested on drug charges. The parents wonder, "What did we do wrong? We raised him as best we could! We sacrificed so that he could get good schooling. We worked hard to provide a good home and security for him. And now he’s in jail!" Unfortunately some of us have heard this story, or a variation on it, more than once. I can’t help but think of the parallel between the parent’s lament and the loving and disappointed God Isaiah describes. God wanted better for the people and did everything God could, nourishing them, providing prophets and wise teachers to guide them. We feel the disappointment of a loving parent as God looks for the fruits of peace and justice and instead plucks wild grapes from the vineyard.

The vineyard in the gospel is the same vineyard; but now Jesus identifies it as the kingdom of God, which he came to proclaim. He has entered Jerusalem, the center of opposition to him. Last week, in the parable of the two sons immediately preceding this one (21:28-32), he accused the chief priests and elders of the people of not responding to his message, while "tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you."

The rejection of Jesus by the religious authorities is growing and Jesus, the son sent by the owner of the vineyard, would soon face his death. It’s tempting to read today’s gospel as one more example of Jesus’ frustration and critique of the recalcitrant Jewish religious leaders. But that was past history for the early church. That’s not why Matthew would include this parable in his gospel. Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. and Matthew wrote around 85 A.D. The parable is about those entrusted to care for the vineyard and so includes us, who are now the tenant caretakers.

It is a parable with strong allegorical and christological elements. For example, Jesus, like the son in the parable, was seized, taken outside the city and there killed. Because of this allegorical feature in the parable we reflect on its wording and images for the message they contain for us. Jesus’ parable alluded to our Isaiah reading except, instead of destroying the vineyard, the owner in Jesus’ parable destroys the murderous tenants, preserves the vineyard and gives it over to other caretakers.

The parable has an element of hope to is because the vineyard is entrusted to "other tenants." These new caretakers have both the privilege of being in charge of the vineyard, as well as a responsibility to "produce its fruits." Who will these new tenant managers be? According to Jesus, quoting Psalm 118, they will come from among the unimportant and rejected – a good description of both the leadership and members of the early church.

So here we are, many generations later. Each of us is a tenant, for we have been entrusted with some area of care in the vineyard. We might not have offices in the Chancery with a sign on the door that reads "Bishop," "Chancellor," or "Director of Vocations." But that does not excuse us from our responsibilities in the vineyard.

The area entrusted to us may seem insignificant, a small plot of land on the outskirts of the vineyard, but our baptism gives us responsibility over it. Imagine what our name tags would read in the kingdom of God: our name, followed by our job description, "Tenant in the Vineyard." While we are grateful recipients of the kingdom Jesus has proclaimed, we are also "tenants" given the responsibility of cultivating and producing fruits of the kingdom in the world around us – peace and nonviolence, joy, justice, gratitude, forgiveness, reconciliation etc. So, what is the particular fruit we are called to cultivate? Where? How? When?

Actually, the "When" is not some future time since, from his earliest preaching, Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom is at hand (4:17). The moment to tend the vineyard is now and we can’t put that responsibility off till later, or on others. "The bishops, priests, deacons and sisters are supposed to do that." The parable makes it clear that vintage time is near. When should we do our work cultivating fruit in the vineyard? Now.

If we don’t already do that work, or if we are thinking of changing what we do, we could offer prayers at today’s Mass for wisdom. Keep praying because usually discernment of a vocation, or a change in vocation in the vineyard, takes time to emerge. Getting guidance from a wise disciple, who can help in our discernment, will help.

The kingdom of God that Jesus came to proclaim here on earth will not just happen by chance. We church people must first change our lives to conform to the principles of the kingdom (cf the Sermon on the Mount, Mt 5:1-6:29), and so be witnesses of that new life in the corner of the vineyard we are sent to plant, tend and harvest the fruits for the Lord.

Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP