Oct 8 2023 Reflection
Sunday 8 October 2023
First Reading: Is 5:1-7
The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
Ps 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20
Second Reading: Phil 4:6-9
Gospel Reading: Mt 21:33-43
Today’s Note: Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
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.”
What is the message of the parable of the vineyard? Jesus’ story about an absentee landlord and his not-so-good tenants would have made sense to his audience. The hills of Galilee were lined with numerous vineyards, and it was quite common for the owners to let out their estates to tenants. Many did it for the sole purpose of collecting rent.
The Lord’s vinyeard in the house of his people
Why did Jesus’ story about wicked tenants cause offense to the scribes and Pharisees? It contained both a prophetic message and a warning. Isaiah had spoken of the house of Israel as “the vineyard of the Lord” (Isaiah 5:7). Jesus’ listeners would have likely understood this parable as referring to God’s dealing with a stubborn and rebellious people.
This parable speaks to us today as well. It richly conveys some important truths about God and the way he deals with his people. First, it tells us of God’s generosity and trust. The vineyard is well equipped with everything the tenants need. The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of the tenants. God, likewise trusts us enough to give us freedom to run life as we choose. This parable also tells us of God’s patience and justice. Not once, but many times he forgives the tenants their debts. But while the tenants take advantage of the owner’s patience, his judgment and justice prevail in the end.
Gift of the kingdom
Jesus foretold both his death on the cross and his ultimate triumph. He knew he would be rejected and put to death, but he also knew that would not be the end. After rejection would come glory – the glory of his resurrection from the grave and his ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven.
The Lord blesses his people today with the gift of his kingdom – a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. And he promises that we will bear much fruit if we abide in him (see John 15:1-11). He entrusts his gifts and grace (unmerited favor and blessing) to each of us and he gives us work to do in his vineyard – the body of Christ in our midst today. He promises that our labor for him will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end (see 1 Corinthians 15:58).
We can expect trials and even persecution. But in the end we will see triumph. Do you follow and serve the Lord Jesus with joyful hope and confidence in the victory he has won for you and the gift of abundant new life in the Holy Spirit?
Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have given us – for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us. O most merciful redeemer, friend, and brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, for your own sake. (prayer of St. Richard of Chichester, 13th century)