Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 80:9-16, 19-20; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43
First Reading: Using two sets of words that rhyme in Hebrew, Isaiah explains that when the people should have vindicated the poor (judgment), they shed blood. Instead of establishing justice, they brought cries to the lips of the suffering. Those accusations, already detailed in Isaiah 1:10-17, lay the groundwork to demonstrate that sinful people bring on their own ruination.
Psalm 80: The refrain from the Psalm is taken from the beginning of the final verse of the First Reading. Israel is the Lord’s vineyard. The verses come from Psalm 80, a communal lament of Israel’s people in which they wonder why the Lord has seemingly deserted them after transplanting them out of Egypt.
Second Reading: St. Paul encourages the Philippians to make their requests known to God in prayer. Since they are able to petition God, the Philippians need to have no anxiety. God’s peace in Christ will safeguard them.
Gospel: Today’s Gospel reading is another parable and a continuous reading from where the parable of last Sunday’s Gospel left off. The landowner and the vineyard in the parable provide obvious parallels with the First Reading; the servants the landowner sends represent the prophets whose message the people often did not heed.
Reflection: Today’s gospel passage sets the image of a vineyard before us for the third time in as many weeks. As we see in today’s reading from Isaiah and the responsorial psalm, vineyards often symbolized Israel under God’s care. The vineyards of biblical times are not like those in contemporary wineries. The owners would clear the land; build a wall around it and a tower inside to protect it from human or animal intruders. The winepress would have two connecting chambers, with the higher one holding the grapes to be crushed and the lower one storing the fermenting juice. Although four to five years would pass before a worthwhile crop would flourish, an absentee owner would arrange a visit at least once a year to collect some rent. Otherwise, the property could be declared abandoned and taken over by the workers.
In today’s parable, the landowner does all that is necessary so that the produce will be assured for both himself and his tenants. But the tenants wanted more than their rightful share – they wanted the whole heritage. Ironically, their actions lead to their losing everything – even their lives. In contrast, through the death of God’s Son we gain everything. We are legitimate heirs to more than our rightful share. We receive an inconceivable heritage – the fruit of the “kingdom of God,” abundant life that can never be pressed out.
Today, just like the workers of yester-year, we seem to want all or nothing! We want the whole enchilada. We want to have our cake and eat it too. However, we must always allow God the opportunity to produce good fruit in and through us. As faithful tenants, we plant seeds of encouragement and hope, we water the growing fruit with prayer, we fertilize it with reflection on God’s word, we cultivate it by good works, and we celebrate its abundance by sharing it with others. Are you ready?
Question for reflection: What obstacles keep me from receiving what God offers and sharing them with others in my discipleship?
Copyright © 2017, Scott W. Eakins. All Rights Reserved.