Staying faithful to Jesus’ teaching
8 October 2023 27th Sunday Year A
Listen to reflection
In today’s gospel, Jesus chastises the Chosen People’s religious leaders of his day, putting a very sobering message before them.
In the parable, he tells of a landowner who leases his vineyard into the care of tenants. When the harvest had come, he sent his servants to the tenants to claim his due as the landowner. To the landowner’s dismay, the murderous tenants kill the servants. The landlord then sends more servants only to have the tenants kill them too.
Finally, the landowner sends his son and heir, thinking that the tenants would surely respect his son, respond appropriately to him, and pay what is due to the son to bring back to the landowner. But the tenants kill the landlord’s son, thinking that they would then claim for themselves the inheritance that would have gone to the son.
Jesus, the master teacher, then asks the leaders who are listening to him what they think the landowner will then do. They reply that, of course, the landowner would severely punish the tenants, take the vineyard from them and lease it to new tenants.
We may well be shocked that the father, knowing that many of his servants had already been killed by the tenants, would send his son. But, in spite of that violent history, he trusts that his son would be safe, and so the son goes without arms, defences or protection, only to be killed.
In Matthew’s hand, the parable becomes a story of salvation history. It speaks to us about God’s dealings with his Chosen People, Israel. The vineyard is Israel (a familiar image in the Old Testament) and the tenants are the religious leaders of Israel. The servants sent by the landowner are the prophets God sent to Israel, many of whom suffered greatly, some even death. Eventually God did send his only Son and Jesus is rejected and killed. God then extends the Kingdom to the whole world; Gentiles and Jews.
So, what does this parable, focussed as it is on the failures of Israel’s religious leaders, mean for us today? It tells us that, no matter the failings or abuses of the leaders of God’s people, God’s Kingdom will prevail and will be fruitful. Also, that it embraces all humankind, not just a select few, but in fact all creation. It tells us that God’s love will not be thwarted, no matter the misuse of privilege, authority and power.
And the cornerstone of the Kingdom is Jesus, the Son, the one who was rejected. Our task, our mission, is to be faithful to Jesus’ teaching and fruitful in bringing about the Kingdom in our world, through works of justice, peace, and reconciliation, in love of neighbour, and in care and compassion for the poor, the lonely, and the marginalised.
The letter to the Philippians assures us: Do not worry about anything. Keep on doing the things of the Kingdom … and the God of peace will be with us.
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