We are told at the beginning of this text that Jesus is
speaking to the Chief Priests and elders of the people. But
this was no ordinary meeting. It was no afternoon
exchange of pleasantries. No this was an out-and-out
If you look at the context you find that Jesus was speaking to them the very next day after he had expelled the moneychangers from the Temple. There had been a commotion and true to form the big-guns were now out wanting to know what was going on, wanting to know who this upstart was, wanting to exert their authority.
And authority is what this exchange is all about. A few verses earlier the elders ask him, ‘What authority do you have for acting like this?’ And Jesus replies with a series of parables which discomfort them greatly. He tells them the one we heard last week about the two sons going into the vineyard and then the one we have before us today about the landowner with the problem tenants.
Now his words might be in the form of parables but they are a very clear answer to their question for in them it is blatantly obvious that it is they who are the rebellious tenants and that it is Jesus who is the son sent into the vineyard. And, more than this, he tells them that they are going to face a severe judgment; a judgement that, unbelievably, they have pronounced on themselves!
Actually the text as quoted in the lectionary stops too soon. The next sentence reads: ‘When they heard his parables, the chief priests and the scribes realised he was speaking about them, but though they would have liked to arrest him they were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet.’
You can imagine the priests feeling tricked, made a fool of. Jesus tells them a parable, even going so far as to get them to pronounce on the moral of the story, and suddenly they find that it is a parable against themselves.
No wonder they were angry and wanted to arrest him. Here he was preaching in ‘their’ Temple. Just the day before he had practically caused a riot and now here he was deliberately challenging their authority.
And he had tricked them! They had been lulled into a trap and he had sprung it shut on them. They answered the question Jesus set before them and said, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and bring in new tenants.’ And snap the trap shuts and they have condemned themselves!
Then comes the denouement: He says accusingly, ‘Have you never read the scriptures?’
What! Read the scriptures! That’s their profession! That’s what they have been doing all their lives and now this upstart is telling them they don’t even understand it! And in front of all the people too!
This is nothing less than deliberate provocation. And in the coming weeks and months Jesus gets more and more provocative until they finally do arrest him and put him to the ultimate ignominy of death on the cross.
But Jesus who has been turning the tables on them —literally as in the case of the money changers and figuratively in the case of the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees— in his death on the Cross turns absolutely everything on its head and from death rises to new life.
This Jesus is truly the greatest radical that ever lived because he does not look with our eyes but with the eyes of God. And he comes to provoke not only the moneychangers and the chief priests but us today.
He wants us to see, to really see, how things are. He wants us to see not with our eyes but with the eyes of the Father. He wants to challenge all our cosy assumptions. He wants to break us free from the constraints we are under and to begin to live a completely new sort of life, one in accordance with the values of the Kingdom.
Sticking to the parable we can see that the Jewish authorities are characterised as the wicked tenants. The new tenants are the Gentiles. They come into the vineyard and act properly giving what is due to God.
We are also Gentiles and their direct inheritors; we are the new tenants in the parable trying to do things God’s way, trying to see things as he sees them.
But we understand that the world of the Gospel is an upside down world. The values of the Gospel are not the values of the people among whom we live.
In the Kingdom the weak are strong and the poor are rich. In the Kingdom respectability and reputation are unimportant; simple goodness and kindness are the primary virtues. Look at the Beatitudes and you’ll get a clue as to what kind of people it is filled with.
The Chief Priests, the Scribes and the Pharisees had built their careers on exclusivity. They came from long lines of priests, ancient families of scribes. Outsiders were not welcome in their ranks; you had to be born into them.
Their whole existence was based on rules and precedents which defined who was in and who was out. This urge to exclude and to define exclusiveness was all about one thing, power.
It was on the acquisition of power that their hearts were firmly set. But, of course, in the topsy-turvy world of the Kingdom of God it is the powerful who find themselves excluded and the weak and powerless who are brought to the top of the table.
The irony of this is exquisite. You can just see how nervous the chief priests would have been in the face of that great crowd gathered in the Temple to hear Jesus. No wonder ‘they were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet!’
Jesus sees everything; nothing escapes his attention. He sees their hypocrisy and it revolts him. He, the Son of the Father, understands what the Kingdom is like better than anyone. And he knows that these parasites are using religion for their own worldly advantage and subverting the will of God. So he provokes them and pushes them and taunts them.
He does in order that at least some of them will see the light and embrace the Gospel and certainly some do turn to him, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea for example.
Yet he also knows that taunting the Pharisees will bring about his death. But this is not something that he is afraid of; for he who is the Lord of Life knows that going to the Cross will be the ultimate turning of the tables.
In staying faithful unto death; in fearlessly proclaiming the Gospel right to the end he will in fact open up the road to heaven for everyone in the world. When Jesus on the Cross says to the Good Thief, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’ he says it to all of us who place our hope in him.
And that today is now; and to live in the Kingdom doesn’t mean waiting till we are dead. It means living it today, this very minute, right now.
Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
October 5, 2014
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A—October 5, 2014
In speaking to the religious leaders in Jerusalem, Jesus tells the whole story of salvation in one parable. Did they recognize themselves in the story?
Gospel (Read Mt 21:33-43)
In this portion of the Gospel, Jesus has been speaking directly to “the chief priests and elders of the people” because they had questioned His authority to teach in the Temple (see Mt 21:23). In the second of three parables, He tells the story of a vineyard. Whenever we see mention of a vineyard in the Gospels, we must remember that the Old Testament repeatedly refers to Israel as God’s vineyard. Our Old Testament readings today will make that abundantly clear.
27th Sunday: Actions and Consequences
The parable in today’s gospel begins with numerous references to the first reading from the prophet Isaiah. In that reading a vineyard is meticulously prepared. It is put on good ground; the soil is spaded; it is cleared of stones; the very best of vines are planted; a hedge is put up to keep the animals out, and a watchtower is built to protect the vineyard from thieves. But the vineyard is still a failure. You get the sense that despite the preparations, the vineyard refused to produce good grapes. This points to the Hebrew people who were lovingly prepared to bear fruit for God, but who rejected God. The Lord complains that He looked for justice. Biblically, justice means a relationship where the people are one with God. Instead, the people rejected God and chose bloodshed.
Prayer to St. Michael
First, let us reflect on St. Michael himself and his role in salvation history. St. Michael the Archangel, whose name means, “one who is like God,” led the army of angels who cast Satan and the rebellious angels into Hell; at the end of time, he will wield the sword of justice to separate the righteous from the evil (cf. Rv 12:7ff). The early Church Fathers recognized the importance of the angels and archangels, particularly St. Michael. Theodoret of Cyr (393-466) in his Interpretation of Daniel wrote,
Celebrating the Archangels: 7 things to know and share
September 29th is the feast of St.s Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael—archangels.
These are the only three angels whose names are mentioned in Scripture, and this is their day.
Here are 7 things to know and share . . .
12 Promises from the Sacred Heart of Jesus
As a small child, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, 1647-1690, preferred prayer and contemplation over childish play, owing perhaps to the extraordinary virtue of her parents. However, she had heavy burdens from her earliest years. She lost her father to pneumonia when she was only eight years old. After her father died she was sent to the Urbanist sisters where the order and peace of soul ushered in by the convent life swept her up into her devotions. From early on she took great comfort and consolation in the Blessed Sacrament. She impressed her order of nuns by her faithfulness so much that she was invited to make her First Holy Communion when she was nine years old.
Where is Jesus?
Deacon Kandra has an excellent post here about the placement of the tabernacle in the new Christ’s Cathedral in California.
Many people like it placed centrally behind the high altar, but that is a comparatively late innovation in Church history, and there are good reasons for it being placed elsewhere.
Hearing a Still Voice in a Noisy World
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once wrote:
If I could prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence. For even if the word of God were proclaimed in the modern world, no one would hear it; there is too much noise. Therefore, create silence.
Pope: Greed, throwaway culture fuel ‘hidden euthanasia’ of elderly
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis warned against the abandonment and neglect of the elderly, calling it a “hidden euthanasia” rooted in today’s “poisonous” culture of disposal and an economic system of greed.
In the presence of his predecessor, Pope Francis also thanked retired Pope Benedict XVI for staying to live at the Vatican and being like “a wise grandfather at home.”
Forever and Ever, Amen — Part I
“I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
Poetic words, wouldn’t you agree? These simple, straightforward promises made at the altar by a man and a woman “seal the deal” so-to-speak. The two become one, exclusively, for life, depending on and lifting up each other, until death do they part.
St. Vincent de Paul: An Ordinary Saint
Though a man of inexorable good deeds, St. Vincent de Paul was not a man of inexorable good humor. Though a man of inexhaustible kindness, he was not a man of inexhaustible patience. He was quick-tempered. He was cantankerous. But he was kind. Though he is a saint, St. Vincent was also a man—and saints that were more human than angelic are sometimes the best ones to emulate. St. Vincent de Paul is such a saint—a saint who was clearly a man who also happened to be a saint rather than a saint who also happened to be a man: a man who clearly relied on the grace of God in order to collect the lowly in his strong and rough embrace.
Pope Francis: Satan seduces by disguising evil as good
Vatican City, Sep 29, 2014 / 06:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday’s feast of the archangels Pope Francis spoke of the ongoing battle between the devil and mankind, encouraging attendees to pray to the angels, who have been charged to defend us.
“He presents things as if they were good, but his intention is destruction. And the angels defend us,” the Roman Pontiff told those gathered for his Sept. 29 Mass in the Vatican’s Saint Martha residence chapel.
The Rosary: Heaven Here and Now
I have never written about this before because it is so personal, but I would like to share what happened the first time I prayed the rosary.
I was a young Anglican priest and I was just heading off to make a retreat at the Benedictine monastery of Our Lady of Quarr on the Isle of Wight in England. A parishioner had just returned from a pilgrimage to Walsingham. She gave me a rosary and said, “Fr Dwight. I think you need one of these.”