Gospel Reflection Oct 8 – Kim VanHuffel
Sunday, October 8
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 21: 33-43
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
He said in reply, ‘I will not,’
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir, ‘but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”
This gospel passage has many layers.
At a basic level, we need to know a few things: 1) The owner of the vineyard is God. 2) The tenants represent the religious leaders of Israel. 3) The servants who come to collect the earnings for the owner, and are killed, are the prophets. 4) The owner’s son, who is dragged out of the vineyard and killed, is Jesus. 5) When the owner comes back he will destroy the tenants and lease the vineyard to others who will produce fruit (the Church). The basic message: Jesus is foreshadowing his death and condemning of the religious leaders who do not live the faith according to their professed devotion to God. But there is more…
If we want to go deeper, we need to recognize that the events in this parable don’t make a lot of sense. What tenant would think he would gain the land by killing the servants and the son of the owner? That’s not the way inheritance and land ownership work. So what is Matthew trying to tell us? It’s all about ownership and power! These tenants are trying to own and control something that is not theirs to own. It belongs to God and he is in control.
Do we see some of this in our own lives? Don’t we claim for ourselves what has only been entrusted to us by God (namely all that we have)? God has a plan for our lives, but we think “It’s my life and I’ll make my own decisions.” God entrusts our children to us, but we determine what we think is right for them and many times don’t keep God’s plans for them as our focus. God created the earth and all the people on it, but we don’t always treat it, or them, with respect.
The good news is there is hope for us yet! In this parable God has an astonishing amount of patience. He could have attacked the tenants after the first prophet was killed, but he does not. His mercy is abundant, and he gives repeated chances. If we only embrace that we are God’s and everything we have is to the glory of God, the effect would be transformative and we would have a really good chance of loving God and neighbor as we should. We can be the people that God leases his vineyard to and produce great fruit!
And in God’s goodness, we are given a plan to make this happen. Jesus is the cornerstone that we need to build our lives on. He is our redemptive chance to become faithful tenants of all that God has given us.