Homily for the twenty-seventh Sunday in the year

Year A  -  Mt. 21:33-43


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Jesus said, «Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance. And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore 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 let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.»

"Jesus said to them, «Have you never read in the scriptures: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes' (Ps. 117, 22-23) ? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.»"



Homily:


"Jesus said, «Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them.»"

The parable of which today's gospel is comprised is situated in the same context as last Sunday's:  it is quite probable that this parable was told by Jesus three days before his death.  Thus, one sees the theme of the Passion of the Savior throughout this text, beginning with the hardships that had to be endured by those sent by the owner of the vineyard, before he sent his own son.

"There was a householder who planted a vineyard."  This householder is, of course, the image of our Heavenly Father, our Creator, he who has disposed everything with order in the universe.  In the beginning, God created heaven and earth, and made man in his image (cf. Gn. 1:1 and 26).  God also ordered Adam, the first man, to till and keep the garden of Eden, that Paradise of delight:  "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it." (Gn. 2:15)  The parable told by Jesus makes a clear allusion to this passage from Genesis:  the householder took care to build a tower, in order that the tenants, who took care of the vineyard, might also be able to keep it and protect it.

But, just as at the time of the original sin, the crimes committed by the tenants took place in the garden, in the vineyard.  The tenants did not want to submit themselves to the orders of the householder who, through the intermediary of his servants, wanted to receive the produce of his vineyard.  They acted like Adam and Eve, who refused to obey God and ate the forbidden fruit:  "God said [to Adam], «... Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?»" (Gn. 3:11)  The worst crimes often take place in a garden . . .  This image frequently recurs in Holy Scripture:  at the time of the original sin, which has just been mentioned;  in the parable told here by the Lord;  and above all in the arrest of Jesus and his betrayal by Judas, in the garden of Gethsemane (a Hebrew name which means "press"!).

"«Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance. And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him.»"

After Adam sinned, he and his wife were thrown out of the garden of Eden:  "The Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken." (Gn. 3:23)  Therefore, if reparations for the sin had to be made, this would have to take place outside the garden of Eden.  Thus, in the parable told by Jesus, the son who was sent by the father, a son who is the image of the Savior himself, was killed outside of the vineyard.  Once he was condemned to death, Jesus too was led, not out of the vineyard or garden, but rather out of the city of Jerusalem.  There, he was nailed to a cross and died.  Those who had condemned him to death - the Jews of that time - were so attached to their material and temporal inheritance, which is to say their goods and money, that they rejected the Son of God in person, he who had come to bring them the inheritance of eternal life.  It was in a completely perverse manner that they said, along with the tenants of the parable:  "This is the heir;  come, let us kill him and have his inheritance!"

"«When therefore 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 let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.»"

The master of the vineyard is not Jesus, but the Father.  When is the Father to return, after the Passion of his Son?  In fact, he has already returned:  during Pentecost, the new creation in the Spirit of God!  At that time, God the Father, through his Spirit, sent in the name of his Son, has gained for himself a new people:  sons and daughters according to his heart, adopted children who, today, make up the new Israel, the new People of God!  Since the day of Pentecost, what Jesus had announced in the parable is being accomplished:  "He will let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons."  Moreover, Saint Matthew noted that, right after the telling of this parable, "When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them." (Mt. 21:45)

"Jesus said to them, «Have you never read in the scriptures: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes' (Ps. 117, 22-23) ? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.»"

The People of God, the new Israel!  This is the Church!  This is us, by the grace of God!  The Lord therefore expects us to produce fruits, those he asks of us:  "Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it."  These fruits are many, but the greatest, the one the Lord particularly esteems, is charity!  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another." (Jn. 13:34)  May Mary, the beloved daughter of the Father, obtain for us the grace of producing the fruits of charity which will open up to us the doors to eternal life!