17 March
Mt 21:33-43, 45-46

‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally 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 get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 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. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’  When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realised that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

The vine was a symbol of Israel.
“You brought a vine out of Egypt;
To plant it you drove out the nations.
Before it you cleared the ground;
It took root and spread through the land.”  (Psalm 79)
So when Jesus tells this story about the vineyard he is really talking about his country and the people who ran it.  They were quite aware of this, “The chief priests and the Pharisees… realised that Jesus was referring to them.”  It wasn’t a story to flatter them; it enraged them.  That means that it frightened them – lying just behind anger there is always fear.  They were frightened because he said they were going to lose power.  They were religious leaders and he told them, “The kingdom of heaven will be taken from you and given to people who will yield a harvest.”

This is not just a story about a comfortable ‘long ago’; it is for the Church of today.  If we are not “producing the goods,” others will.  Many people, experiencing lack of community and spiritual support in their parishes, are looking to new religions and cults for support. 

 

 
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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 

 

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