March 1, 2013
Matthew 21: 33-43, 45-46
“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another.
Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
The Jews of Jesus’ time had a keen sense of history. In those pre-printing days, some people knew the Scriptures by heart, and the story of God’s saving power was passed down through generations by word of mouth. The parables Jesus used often referred back to that history, as today’s Gospel passage does. So his hearers recognized the “landowner” as God and his servants as the prophets who were often persecuted for reminding people of Yahweh’s commandments. The surprise in this parable, though, was the landowner’s own son Jesus talked about: the one whom, incredibly, the tenants killed!
His listeners weren’t stupid – they saw the point, and so did the scribes and Pharisees: Jesus was identifying himself as the son of the landowner and, by implication, as the Messiah the Jews had awaited for centuries. This was issuing a challenge to the authorities in a way he never had before: “the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you!” No wonder they wanted to arrest him.
As your Lenten prayer moves on, watch Jesus provoke the Jewish leaders more and more: “You’ve turned my Father’s house into a den of thieves!” “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days!” “You have said it: I am a King.” Reflect on the courage it took for Jesus to deliver the message he was sent to give: “God so loved the world as to send his only Son to save it.” Pray for the courage you need, never to be ashamed of your belief in Jesus Christ.
—Fr. John J. O’Callaghan, S.J., Vice-President for Mission & Ministry, Loyola University Medical Center
Jesus, lover of my soul, center of my heart: Why am I not more eager to endure pains and tribulations for love of you, when you, my God, have suffered so much for me? Come, then, every sort of trial in the world, for this is my delight, to suffer for Jesus. This is my joy, to follow my Savior, and to find my consolation with my consoler on the cross.
—St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J.
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