27th Sunday of Ordinary Time A
October 3, 2017 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
b) The Wicked Tenants. (THE REFUSAL IS OF THE HISTORICAL MINISTRY OF JESUS.)
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 wretched death, and let out the
vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper
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. They must accept non Jews.
3) What has been my response to Jesus’ call in my life? Do I think
that just by being baptized, calling myself Christian I will enter the
kingdom? Jesus challenges me today too to bear fruit.
The other day I was talking to someone and said: “I don’t understand why this person acted in this way.” I received this response: “There are all types of persons in the vineyard of the Lord.” Today’s first reading and Gospel speak about the vineyard of the Lord.
The first thing that strikes me in these two readings is the care God has for the vineyard. In the first reading we are told: “…he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press.” Jesus’ words in the Gospel echo these words: “There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.”
Though this passage doesn’t mention pruning; it is found in John’s Gospel when he speaks about vine and branches.
The parable of the vineyard, in both Isaiah’s account and Jesus’ reformulation of it for his contemporaries, must in some way be a message given to today’s church. The Psalm response declared: “The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.” But can we not equally say, “I am the vineyard of the Lord.”? Pause and think about the way God has cultivated you during your life. God put you in a particular family, with these parents and these brothers and sisters. God put you in this particular place and provided that you moved from here to there. God has given you your body, your mind, your thoughts, your experiences. The Language of God caring for the vineyard in Isaiah is also symbolic for the way that God has cared for you.
In these readings we also hear of the wounded heart of the Creator: “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done? Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? …he looked for judgment, but sees, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!” In the Gospel Jesus says, “Finally he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.” All through the ages, this same cry has been echoed by parents in despair. What have I done? How did the child I loved and nurtured grow into a rebel I don’t recognize? How did it happen that my child has turned into an addict; into someone who is unjust and cruel, into someone I never expected when, filled with hope for the future, I held an innocent infant in my hands? What more could I have done? What did I fail to do? These are the cries of someone who loved and who is bitterly hurt.
In Jesus’ parable those listening see the injustice of the tenants of the vineyard. (“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.”)
It is easy to see injustice when others are perpetrating it but we remain blind when we are the perpetrators. This was not only the problem of the people who reacted to Jesus parable. This is our problem as well. To take a current example of national and international scope: How easy it is for us to blame Muslims for their violence and their injustice and how blind we are to our own acts that cause a cry from the oppressed and the neglected of this world. We justify violence on our part but are horrified by the violence perpetrated by those who disagree with our world view. Both they and we are continuing to wound the heart of God.
Applying these passages to ourselves they cause us to ask: “What is the dream of God for me? Have I come close to fulfilling God’s dream? The importance of examining ourselves is heightened when we look at the fate of the vineyard that produced only wild grapes (might we say “sour” grapes). Isaias image of what God does to the vineyard is frightening, but probably doesn’t do justice to God. But at the end of the Gospel Jesus tells us: “…the kingdom will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” This judgement prompts us to seriousness of not just thinking about what good fruit I should be bringing forth, but to actually bring forth that good fruit.