27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)


27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) Mt. 21: 33-43 – October 08, 2017

“Finally, he sent his own son to them, thinking, ´They will respect my son. (…) But the tenants killed him“

One of the Aesop´s fables tells the story of a dog that is carrying a stolen bone in his mouth. He crosses a bridge over a stream. He looks at his own reflection on the water. He takes it for a second dog with a bigger bone. He opens his mouth to bark at the “other” and in doing so drops what he was carrying. His own bone falls to the stream's bottom. He ends up with no bone. The story´s moral is that, the one who covets something loses all. With the tenants of today's parable something similar happens, because of greed, they lost their jobs.

We hear from the beginning of the parable that Jesus addresses it to the chief priests and elders of the people. Jesus uses the vineyard image of Isaiah 5:1-7, and he tells the story of a landowner who after planting a vineyard with so much care and love, he leases it to tenants, and goes on a journey. At harvest time, when he sends servants to the tenants to obtain his produce, the tenants maltreat and even kill some of his servants. The landowner finally sends his son, thinking that they will respect him. The evil tenants kill the son, hoping thereby to acquire his inheritance.

After finishing the story, Jesus asks his hearers what they think the owner of the vineyard will do. This parable has a teaching and legal meaning in which a teacher tells a story with the intention of drawing its hearers into bringing their own conclusions and judgment back upon themselves. The best known example is the story we find in 2 Samuel 12: 1-12, when David had sinned, taking Uriah's wife. Nathan told King David about the rich man who took a poor man's only little lamb to prepare a banquet for a visitor.

Jesus like Nathan waits for the hearers of the parable to make a judgment. David, of course, declares that the man who did the evil deed deserves death. The prophet Nathan says to the king: "You are the man". In the parable of the Gospel Jesus asks the chief priests and elders of the people, “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 then turns their own judgment against themselves: in the same way, the kingdom of God will be taken from them and given to a people who will produce good fruit.

This Sunday we are invited to see this parable of Matthew as part of our own history. The tenants entrusted with God's vineyard, now no longer in parable, but in real life, have killed many of his prophets and finally have killed his son, Jesus, present in the innocent victims of violence. What judgment will God make against these tenants? Our common sense readily makes the judgment that divine justice demands punishment for these evil deeds.

Let us try to be involved in the parable of the vineyard. The main point of our reflection today is that Jesus addresses each of us as tenants of God's vineyard. And that vineyard today is the Church. We are responsible for the vineyard in the world. Have we in fact produced the good fruit of justice and love? Are we working, as Saint Francis of Assisi, to be instruments of peace, justice, love, and reconciliation in our family, school and work? Or do we act with violence and aggressiveness against our fellow human beings? Do we at times forget that we are only administrators of the vineyard? Do we share our goods with so many others who might be hungry?

The Gospel today and every time it is proclaimed, is always about God´s actions of love; the Gospel challenges us and not the Jewish people or people of Jesus´ time. So today´s parable questions us if we are people producing the fruits of God´s kingdom. The parable Jesus tells us today is about our responsibility for the Lord´s vineyard, to produce the harvest of love where there is hatred, of pardon where there is injury, of light where there is darkness, as we pray together with Francis of Assisi.

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