October 8, 2023: Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel: Matthew 21:33-43
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.”
So the tenants think they can take over the vineyard, do they? Awfully nervy of them. Of course, the vineyard is a metaphor for Israel, one that’s used again and again in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:32, Psalms 80:8, Isaiah 5:107, to name a few). So what is Jesus actually saying?
He is indicting the priests and elders; they are the tenants to whom God’s kingdom was entrusted. And what do they do with it? Attack or kill all of the landowner’s messengers, including his own son! Jesus is laying the crimes (past and future) of the elders and priests right at their feet.
What if Jesus laid my crimes (sins of my past and sins of my future) at my feet? Would I run from the truth? Deny my future culpability? Or would I accept my failings and turn my heart?
More importantly, don’t I already have a sense of what those sins are or will be? In which case, I ought to be directing my efforts toward repentance and prevention. What are your “chronic” sins and how might you avert them in the future?
Think of a person with whom you’ve overstepped your bounds. (Isn’t that what “trespassing against” someone really is?) What did you do and why did you do it? Try to come up with ways of avoiding this behavior in the future.
Develop a list of things you might say instead of stepping on your victim’s toes (or heart). And when someone trespasses against you – what are three concrete things you can say or do to diffuse the situation?