• 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time A

    Posted on October 3, 2017 by in Reflections on Sunday Gospels

    Introduction:  This Sunday we arrive at a point in Matthew’s Gospel

    where the conflict between Jesus and the authorities is heating up. 

    Just prior to today’s reading, Jesus in chapter 21 had entered Jerusalem

    in triumph.  He had cleansed the temple and worked miracles of healing. 

    The chief priests and elders of the people question his authority: “by

    what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this

    authority?” Jesus confounds them by a question about John the Baptist.

    Matthew follows this controversy by three parables of judgement on those

    who do not accept Jesus as the Herald of the Kingdom. We will hear these

    three parables this Sunday and the two that follow.

         l) In these three parables we pick up the mounting hostility

    between Jesus and the Jewish leaders.

         2) But we also detect the strained relationship between Matthew’s

    community (around the year 90) and Judaism. _

         3) We ask ourselves the question: what do these parables mean for

    me today?




    a) The two sons. (REFUSAL BEGINS WITH JOHN THE BAPTIST) 21:28-32


         1) The “sinners” (prostitutes and tax collectors had been living a

    “no” to God) at first REFUSED to do God’s will, they ignored the Law and

    the teachings of the rabbis.  Later, however, they repented through the

    preaching of John and Jesus, opening their hearts to God’s design. _

         The righteous, on the other hand, said “yes” to God by meticulously

    following the Law.  In fact, however, they did not do what God really

    wanted. They refused to heed the message of John the Baptist or Jesus.

         This parable repeats the demand for repentance verified by action

    that is the hallmark of Matthew’s Jesus.  “None of those who cry out,

    ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of God but only the one who DOES

    THE WILL of my Father in heaven.”7:21 

         The conversion of the tax collectors and sinners to the way of

    holiness should inspire Jesus’ opponents to accept his preaching, and

    not to regard him with suspicion and hostility. 


         2) Matthew summons the Jewish leaders of his day to be like the

    first son and to join the heirs of tax collectors and harlots–the

    Christian community.


         3) This parable makes us look at ourselves.  Am I more like the

    first son or the second son.

         This parable summons us who are Christians and heirs of Matthew,

    not merely to respond with promises of labor in the vineyard, we must

    follow our words with action. 

         If we said yes, but did “no” we are called to conversion.

         Conversion is possible and called for.  The son who at first said

    no, undergoes conversion and goes.  We should learn from the conversion

    experience of others and ourselves be converted.




    27 A b) The Wicked Tenants. (THE REFUSAL IS OF THE HISTORICAL MINISTRY OF JESUS.) 21:33-43


        l) Israel, the Lord’s vineyard (Is 5:lff) is tended by laborers who

    prove to be faithless.  They make a contract, say yes, and then renege

    on it say no.

        They reject REFUSE the servants of the landowner who comes to claim

    his harvest.  Matthew gives heavy clues that these are the prophets

    rejected by Israel by describing their fate as being “killed” and


        Last of all the landowner sends his son, his heir.  They kill him. 

    This is the  rejection of Jesus.  It is the rejection of the very

    cornerstone of God’s kingdom. _

        Matthew’s Jesus asks the real question: “When therefore the owner of

    the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”  The sentence of

    judgement is clearly pronounced by the Jewish leaders on themselves. 

    “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the

    vineyard to other tenants…(who will give him the fruits in their

    season.” )


        2) Because Israel has not responded to Jesus and his Gospel, the

    kingdom is taken from their charge and offered to others. Matthew’s

    Christians receive the heritage of Israel. _

        But there is also stress on the need for Christians TO BEAR FRUIT,

    undergo conversion. _


        3)  What has been my response to Jesus’ call in my life?  Do I think

    that just by being baptised, calling myself Christian I will enter the

    kingdom?  Jesus challenges me too today  to bear fruit.


    28 A c) The Wedding Banquet. (THE REFUSAL IS OF THE RISEN AND



        1) The story of the wedding banquet, another traditional image or

    biblical metaphor for the kingdom of God, plays out its sad history of


        The invitation offered by the first group of servants (prophets) is

    refused.  But the invitation offered by the second group of servants

    encounters not only indifference but also hostility, to the point that

    those servants are executed. 


        2) In this parable the invitation that is rejected is that of the

    risen and returning Jesus which is made through the preaching of

    Christian missionaries. Persecution has been predicted by Jesus, but so

    too has the judgment on the persecutors.  The vivid description in verse

    7 of how the king’s army destroyed those murderers and their city surely

    brought to the minds of Matthew’s first readers the Roman conquest of

    Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The claims of the “synagogue across the street”

    are rejected. 

        Because the professedly and publicly religious people of Israel

    refused the invitation to the kingdom of God, a general invitation has

    been made to “everyone they met, bad as well as good.”

        However the last part of the parable makes clear that mere

    acceptance of the invitation does not guarantee participation in the

    banquet. The community of Matthew, however, cannot claim election or

    membership in a community as their surety of salvation. It is not enough

    to just say, Yes Lord.  One must receive Jesus’ invitation to the

    banquet and ACT UPON IT.   To be properly dressed is to put on Christ by

    deeds of justice and charity, to be properly clothed with the deeds of

    Christian discipleship.


         3) We believe that we are the successors of Matthew’s community, we

    are part of the true church. By our baptism we too received a white

    garment a symbol of our putting on new life in Christ.  But we must ask

    ourselves if our lives have continued to put on Christ.  Do we do deeds

    of justice and charity or do we just do what everyone else does?  Do we

    critically examine our life and our decisions against the teachings of

    Jesus.  It is not just the Jewish leaders, the synagogue across the

    street that can be rejected by Jesus.  We can too if we refuse Jesus and

    his call to bear fruit, put on Christ by deeds of justice and charity. 



        l) The parables of Jesus when originally uttered summoned his

    hearers to critical decision. 

        2) These same parables, when applied allegorically by Matthew to 

    his church, are not to be read with complacency on the assumption that

     they deal with the rejection of Jewish leaders. 

        3) Today they summon Christians who are the heirs of Matthew, not

    merely to respond with promises of labor in the vineyard, but to bear

    fruit and to “put on Christ” by deeds of justice and charity. 



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