Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. They will respect my son he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance. So they seized him and 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 answered, He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives’. Jesus said to them, Have you never read in the scriptures: It was the stone rejected by the builders that became the keystone. This was the Lord’s doing and it is wonderful to see? I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’ When they heard his parables, the chief priests and the scribes realized he was speaking about them, but though they would have liked to arrest him they were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet.
Members remain standing while the Gospel is read. After the Gospel is read, members kiss the Gospel and are seated. After an appropriate period of reflection, members are invited to share their own lights from the Holy Spirit in relation to this Gospel passage. The secretary synthesizes reflections into a brief summary for the team.
(30 minutes) See monthly schedule
The Better Part
Consider privately reflecting on the corresponding chapter from The Better Part by Fr. John Bartunek, LC, ThD during the week.
Unit #66 – “A Valuable Vineyard” – Matthew 21:33-46
“My daughter, all your miseries have been consumed in the flame of My love, like a little twig thrown into a roaring fire.” Words of Jesus to St Faustina Kowalska
Christ the Lord
In this parable, Christ himself is one of the characters. The servants of the vineyard’s owners represent all the prophets and teachers sent by God to the people of Israel before the coming of Christ – from Moses to Micah. They represent the whole history of God’s attempt to bring men back into friendship with him through a loving call to repentance. How patient God has been! But even such patience could not transform men’s hearts. So God sent his son, Jesus Christ. The parable emphasizes the difference between the servants and the son. If ever Christ’s hearers had doubted his claim to be more than just another prophet, more than just another rabbi, more than just another great teacher and philosopher, this parable would surely cure them. Jesus Christ is Lord not just because he is better than any other religious or political leader, but because he is qualitatively different; he is the Son of God.
The Pharisees and chief priests understand the parable. They concede the point; they see and condemn the tenants’ diabolical injustice. They also recognize that Jesus is applying the parable to them: he is the Messiah and they have failed to welcome him. But they don’t repent. Here St Matthew is preparing us to recognize the true greatness of our Lord. Jesus will continue to explain, argue, exhort, and warn these men who refuse to believe in him. And they will continue to refuse. So then Jesus will put aside words and arguments and miracles. Instead, he will take up his cross. He will make a final assault on their entrenched hearts with the irresistible weapon of total love, total self-giving, total forgiveness. Jesus is the only Lord that conquers by surrender.
Christ as Teacher
In these few sentences, Jesus sums up the history of salvation, past, present and future. The vineyard is the world, given to men by God for them to “cultivate and care for” (Genesis 2:15). The tenants are the leaders of God’s Chosen People. The owner is God himself. The servants and the son are the prophets and Christ himself. Sin is the tenants’ “wretchedness,” by which they rebel against the owner out of utter selfishness and greed. Could Jesus have given a clearer warning to these men? Could he have given a plainer explanation of his own identity and mission, a plainer presentation to the Pharisees of the reality and consequences of their desires to kill him?
The parable applies just as easily to every man and woman. We are each given a vineyard: our own life. We are each given all the means necessary (the hedge, the tower, the winepress) to live that life in accordance with God’s plan for us. We are each given many chances to put our lives right with God, honoring him and loving him by living as he designed us to live. Many chances. And each of us, in some way, has been introduced to the owner’s son, Jesus Christ. It seems from the Gospel texts that few chief priests and elders actually repented and accepted Christ’s message. We easily deplore such hardheartedness, but before doing so, we should see what kind of fruit our own vineyards are producing, and how much our lives are giving glory to God instead of trying to steal glory for ourselves.
Christ as Friend
The owner of the vineyard would have had every right to punish the tenants after they had done away with the first batch of servants. But he didn’t. He sent more, and more, and finally he sent his son. Only when we have made a definitive decision against him and held fast to that decision in the face of abundant gestures of his love will he let us have what we have wrongly chosen. Christ, the true friend, does not condemn those who refuse his friendship; they condemn themselves.
Jesus: I never give up on you. If only you knew how much I love my Church, and every person in it. If only you knew how patient my Father is, how magnificently and unabashedly he loves each one of his children! Since I will never give up on you, you must never give up on yourself. No matter how many times you offend me, fail, or reject me, I am always ready and willing to renew our friendship. I am always taking the first step, moving you and inspiring you to come back to me. ost often, he even takes the initiative and moves us to come back to him.
Christ in my Life
I pray for those who are far from you, for those who don’t recognize the hardness of their own hearts. Conquer them with your grace. Don’t let them perish, but grant them eternal life. All things are possible for you, Lord, so soften their hearts. Reach out to them through me. I too want to give my life for the salvation of others. For the sake of your sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world”
What are you saying to me that I am not hearing? What relationship do I need to reform? What responsibility am I neglecting? What mission am I ignoring? Lord, I know that following you will always require the painful steps of humility. Never let me take any other path. Never let me be separated from you”
Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for being so patient with me. Thank you for inspiring good desires in my heart. Lord, teach me to be truly humble, to place all my confidence in you, and to learn the secret of lasting joy. Make me a channel of your peace”
Questions for Discussion
What struck you most about this passage? What did you notice that you hadn’t noticed before?
What is our role in taking care of the “vineyard” of the Church? How can we fulfill it better?
What are the “fruits” that the owner of the vineyard demanded? What fruits should the life a Christian bear for the world?
What more could Jesus have done to convince the Pharisees to accept him? What more could he have done to convince us to trust him completely?