26th Sunday of Ordinary Time A
October 3, 2017 by
David Jackson 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
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
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
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
RETURNING JESUS MADE THROUGH THE PREACHING OF CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES). _
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”
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
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.