Friday, March 17, 2017
1) Opening prayer
God, we do not want to die;
we want to live.
We want to be happy
but without paying the price.
We belong to our times,
when sacrifice and suffering are out of fashion.
God, make life worth the pain to be lived.
Give us back the age-old realization,
that life means to be born
again and again in pain,
that it may become again
a journey of hope to you,
together with Christ Jesus, our Lord.
2) Gospel reading - Matthew 21,33-43.45-46
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: 'Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad.
When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third.
Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way.
Finally he sent his son to them thinking, "They will respect my son." But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, "This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance." So they seized him and 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 answered, 'He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him at the proper time.'
Jesus said to them, 'Have you never read in the scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this is the Lord's doing and we marvel at it? 'I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.'
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.
• The text of today’s Gospel forms part of a whole which is more vast or extensive which includes Mathew 21, 23-40. The chief priests and the Elders had asked Jesus with which authority he did those things (Mt 21, 23). They considered themselves the patrons of everything and they did not want anybody to do things without their permission. The answer of Jesus is divided into three parts: 1) He, in turn, asks them a question because he wants to know from them if John the Baptist was from heaven or from earth (Mt 21, 24-27). 2) He then tells them the parable of the two sons (Mt 21, 28-32). 3) He tells them the parable of the vineyard (Mt 21, 33-46) which is today’s Gospel.
• Mathew 21, 33-40: The parable of the vineyard. Jesus begins as follows: “Listen to another parable: There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard, he fenced it around, dug a winepress in it and built a tower”. The parable is a beautiful summary of the history of Israel, taken from the prophet Isaiah (Is 5, 1-7). Jesus addresses himself to the chief priests, to the elders (Mt 21, 23) and to the Pharisees (Mt 21, 45) and He gives a response to the question which they addressed to him asking about the origin of his authority (Mt 21, 23). Through this parable, Jesus clarifies several things: (a) He reveals the origin of his authority: He is the Son, the heir. (b) He denounces the abuse of the authority of the tenants, that is of the priests and elders who were not concerned and did not take care of the people of God. (c) He defends the authority of the prophets, sent by God, but who were killed by the priests and the elders. (4) He unmasks the authority by which they manipulate the religion and kill the Son, because they do not want to lose the source of income which they succeed to accumulate for themselves, throughout the centuries.
• Mathew 21, 41: The sentence which they give to themselves. At the end of the parable Jesus asks: “Now, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? They are not aware that the parable was speaking precisely of them. This is why, with the response that they give, they decree their own condemnation: “The chief priests and the elders of the people answered: ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him at the proper time”. Several times Jesus uses this same method. He leads the person to say the truth about himself, without being aware that he condemns himself. For example in the case of the Pharisee who condemns the young woman considering her a sinner (Luke 7, 42-43) and in the case of the parable of the two sons (Mt 21, 28-32).
• Mathew 21, 42-46: The sentence given by themselves was confirmed by their behaviour. From the clarification given by Jesus, the chief priests, the elders and the Pharisees understand that the parable speaks about them, but they do not convert. All the contrary! They keep to their own project to kill Jesus. They will reject “the corner stone”. But they do not have the courage to do it openly, because they fear the reaction of the people.
• The diverse groups which held the power at the time of Jesus. In today’s Gospel two groups appear which, at that time, governed: the priests, the elders and the Pharisees. Then, some brief information on the power which each of these groups and others had is given:
a) The priests: They were the ones in charge of the worship in the Temple. The people took to the Temple the tithe and the other taxes and offerings to pay the promises made. The High Priest occupied a very important place in the life of the nation, especially after the exile. He was chosen and appointed from among the three or four aristocratic families who possessed more power and riches.
b) The elders or the Chief Priests of the People: They were the local leaders in the different villages of the city. Their origin came from the heads of the ancient tribes.
c) The Sadducees: they were the lay aristocratic elite of society. Many of them were rich merchants or landlords. From the religious point of view they were conservative. They did not accept the changes supported by the Pharisees, for example, faith in the resurrection and the existence of the angels.
d) The Pharisees: Pharisee means: separated. They struggled in a way that through the perfect observance of the Law of purity, people would succeed in being pure, separated and saint as the Law and Tradition demanded! Because of the exemplary witness of their life according to the norms of the time, their moral authority was greatly extended in the villages of Galilee.
e) Scribe or doctor of the Law: They were the ones in charge of teaching. They dedicated their life to the study of the Law of God and taught people what to do to observe all the Law of God. Not all the Scribes belonged to the same line. Some were united with the Pharisees, others with the Sadducees.
4) Personal questions
• Some times have you felt that you were controlled in an undue manner, at home, at work, in the Church? Which was your reaction? Was it the same as that of Jesus?
• If Jesus would return today and would tell us the same parable, how would I react?
5) Concluding prayer
As the height of heaven above earth,
so strong is faithful the love of the Lord for those who fear him.
As the distance of east from west,
so far from us does he put our faults. (Ps 103,11-12)