Sunday 8 October 2023
Matt 21:33-43

“‘Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom” .
(Matt 21:40-43)

This parable of the murderous labourers is a sad and unlikely account, of a clash between good and evil, between a trust that has no limits and insatiable greed that stops at nothing.

The dialogue between Jesus and His listeners concludes with a sentence of transferral: “I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom”.

It is good to highlight, though, that it is labourers working in the vineyard that are replaced, not the vineyard itself which, according to Isaiah 5, is the House of Israel. So this isn’t a theology of supercession or replacement. Their call remains immutable, unchangeable, for “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29).

In fact, it transpires from the text that these workers hadn’t cultivated the vineyard as they should, and that their only interest was to take it over to the detriment of the owner.

In this allegory, we see the story of the chosen people who, for centuries, had persecuted the prophets, the servants of the Lord, sent precisely to call the people back to justice and observance of the Law – and ultimately, His Son.

This parable also provides warning to each of us, who profess ourselves Christians. Instead of feeling privileged and honoured to serve in the Lord’s vineyard, we can fall into the widespread temptation of taking possession of it: seeing ourselves not as the useless servants but as the masters, of our life, of our bodies, of those around us…

Let us always lift our hearts to the Lord in prayer: “Preserve in me the grace of recognising myself as a worthless servant: that I may never enter in to competition with You – the Son! For it is through You that I receive the great inheritance of being son or daughter of God!”.

Fr. Giuseppe