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Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it,
dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated 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 one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?
Therefore, I say to you,
the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,
they knew that he was speaking about them.
And although they were attempting to arrest him,they feared the crowds,
for they regarded him as a prophet.
(Friday, 2nd week of lent)
In Matthew’s gospel, as Jesus enters Jerusalem before his death, a large crowd acclaims him as “the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee” and spread their cloaks and branches before him. “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Then, Jesus goes into the temple and drives out those who were buying and selling there, a symbolic act that restores it as a place of prayer. (Matthew 21, 1-18)
The Jewish leaders react strongly, demanding to know by what authority he does these things. In response, Jesus accepts the testimony of the people; he has been sent by God. He is indeed the Son of David. But in the parable he directs to their leaders Jesus recognizes they will reject him, as others before them rejected prophets sent by God. They will put him to death.
All the gospels clearly state that Jesus saw himself as he does in this gospel passage. He knows he speaks in God’s name and the leaders of his people will reject him. Yet, the stone that the builders reject will become the cornerstone.
Still, the conviction Jesus has about his mission will not insulate him from the pain he will suffer from being rejected and from having the the truth he speaks denied. Like the prophets before him he will suffer greatly from rejection. This will be especially acute as the crowds that acclaimed him when he entered the city fall silent and his own disciples deny and abandon him. He then is alone.
This parable from Matthew helps us to understand what Jesus suffered when he is arrested and brought to die on a cross. Those who follow him will know that suffering too.
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man’s table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.’
Abraham replied, ‘My child,
remember that you received what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing
who might wish to go from our side to yours
or from your side to ours.’
He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him
to my father’s house,
for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.’
But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.’
He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
Then Abraham said,
‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded
if someone should rise from the dead.’“
The rich man in this parable is so absorbed in himself and his “good” life that he sees nothing else, not the poor man at his door nor his own inevitable death. Other parts of scripture, like Psalm 49, point to the same blindness: “In his riches, man lacks wisdom; he is like the beasts that are destroyed.”
The warning is not just for the rich, however. The same psalm calls for “people both high and low, rich and poor alike” to listen. A small store of talents and gifts can be just as absorbing and make us just as shortsighted as a great store of riches. Whether we have much or little, we have to see the poor at our gate.
We also have to see a life beyond this one as our destiny and what we do and how we live here will count there. There will be a judgment.
But Jesus‘ parable offers another reminder. God has given us a sign in his resurrection from the dead that we have been called to share in his risen life. A great gift has been given. Like the sign of Jonah, some will not believe it, but Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, places this joyful mystery before us again.
May God give us grace to believe in it and accept its invitation.
(Thursday, 2nd week of Lent)