The Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard
THE VINEYARD OF THE LORD IS THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL (Psalm 80:9,12,13-14,15-16,19-20)
In this Sunday's readings, we hear two powerful allegories of the Vineyard (representing the people of Israel) and the land owner (representing God). In both the first reading and the Gospel, we hear how God meticulously and lovingly cared for his beloved vines, only to have it come to naught. Imagine the sorrow on the part of the Lord.
In the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah (IS 5:1-7), we hear the "Song of the Vineyard", telling of a friend's vineyard that, after so much toil and effort, produced wild grapes. The wild grapes and the owner's response can be seen as an metaphor for the sinfulness of the people and their exile into captivity in a foreign land.
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.
Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done? Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? Now, I will let you know what I mean to do with my vineyard: take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled! Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed, but overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds not to send rain upon it. The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!
In our Gospel reading (Matthew 21:33-43), Jesus continues his rebuke of the chief priests and elders with this parable, drawing upon Isaiah's Song of the Vineyard in our first reading. This is something the leaders would have surely recognized, and seen themselves in. In this parable, Jesus likens the tenants to the leaders of Israel, the servants sent by the land owner as the prophets sent by God, and the son of the owner as Jesus himself. Again, Imagine the sorrow and rightful anger of the landowner (God) as all this transpired.
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."
In our Epistle reading (Philippians 4:6-9), St. Paul writes to his beloved Philippians from prison while they themselves were experiencing persecution. He exhorts them to keep their eyes and prayers fixed on Jesus, who will provide a peace beyond all human comprehension, a peace that will enable them to transcend their current difficulties and trials.
Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.
We may be tempted to see our readings today as having to do with the ancient people of Israel and the early Christians. Perhaps we can see ourselves in these stories as well. How would we fare today in God's vineyard? Would God be disappointed in us? Or would he be delighted in us?
- Click Here to read, reflect and pray on the full readings for Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017