The Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Isa 5:1-7 + Phil 4:6-9 + Mt 21:33-43
October 8, 2017
The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.
We hear a strange lack of logic within Jesus’ parable. The landowner symbolizes God the Father. In the words of our Psalm refrain, the vineyard is the house of Israel. The tenants—whom we might just as easily call the “stewards” of the vineyard—are those whom God had entrusted with the care of the vineyard. They symbolize the “officialdom” of Israel in Jesus’ day, a group that included the chief priests and the elders, to whom Jesus addressed this parable.
The tenants’ actions demonstrate the delusion in their minds. They believe they are the masters, rather than stewards. This illogical belief justifies (in their own hearts, at least) their illogical actions and words. When the true master demands his rightful harvest, the tenants beat, kill and stone his messengers. They’re defending their right to be deluded. When the vineyard owner sends his own beloved son, he logically thinks, “They will respect my son.” Unfortunately, he fails to realize that you cannot reason with those who have turned reason on its head. He fails to realize that you cannot reason with servants who reign within their minds as masters. Unfortunately, the price of his failure is his beloved son.
This son, of course, represents God the Son. Jesus is proclaiming His own future murder at the hands of those whom His Father had entrusted with the care of the house of Israel. But the Gospel includes this parable, and the Church proclaims this parable to you, so that you can reflect on whether and how you might be modern-day tenants. The modern vineyard is the Church, or if you prefer, your own life within the Church.
The purpose of the Church on earth is to be the Body of Christ in the midst of this world. All of us together—if we are united—seek to accomplish what Christ wants to accomplish in the world. Christ works through us. But this means that we have to know the mind of Christ, and discern what He wants to accomplish in the world. This isn’t a matter of generic principles: that Christ wants to do good things, and make people happy. Rather, this concerns very specific goals, because Christ exists, is interested in this world, and has desires for this world.
On a practical level, one of the most important moral principles—that helps us to know and carry out the mind of Christ—is that Our Lord Jesus Christ has a special love for the poorest and most innocent among us. Sometimes this is called the Church’s “preferential option for the poor”. In other words, if we ask ourselves, “Where would Christ start, if He were to come down to earth and begin doing His work to clean up this world?”, then the answer is: “He would start from the bottom up.” This is the place for us to keep in mind in making a good examination of conscience, and in making plans to serve in the Church in order to foster the unity—both in the Church and within the human family—that can lead each of us to unity with God in Heaven.