Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Father James Swanson, LC
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.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are the master of the universe and yet you wish to listen to me and guide me. You know all things past, present and future, and yet you respect my freedom to choose you. Holy Trinity, you are completely happy and fulfilled on your own, and yet you have generously brought us into existence. You are our fulfillment. Thank you for the gift of yourself. I offer the littleness of myself in return, knowing you are pleased with what I have to give.
Petition: Lord, grant me a deeper humility that seeks you and not myself in all that I do.
1. The Stone Rejected: Just a few days before, a great crowd had acclaimed Jesus as the Messiah as he triumphantly entered Jerusalem. However, the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees and Herodians see Jesus as a threat to their own position of leadership. Though they have not yet let it be known to the people, they have decided to reject Jesus and are already plotting together to kill him. In the meantime, they are pretending to be making a “thorough investigation,” to find the “truth” about what the crowds have acclaimed – that Jesus is the Messiah. What they are really doing is trying to ruin him, to catch him in some mistake, so as to denounce him as a fraud before the crowds. They seek to break the people’s support for him. They practice the kind of toxic politics we are so familiar with today: Instead of seeking the common good or the truth, they only seek themselves and their own glory.
2. The Cornerstone: Jesus sees what his detractors are trying to do. He tells them a series of parables, hinting that if they continue to oppose him, they will lose. In the parable of the vineyard he tells them that they can kill him; but even so they will still lose. Then he quotes Psalm 118, comparing himself with the rejected stone that becomes the cornerstone. What Jesus is hinting at goes beyond just the quoted verses. The whole psalm – which Jesus’ enemies would have known from memory – tells of Yahweh fighting for his faithful one. The faithful one will not be abandoned to death, and the enemies of Yahweh will be defeated. It is as if Jesus throws down a challenge: “You cannot beat me. Even if you kill me as you are planning to do, my Heavenly Father will not abandon me to death. He will fight for me and I will become the cornerstone. You would do better to join me.”
3. Jesus Is True Progress: Jesus won. He continues to win today. His enemies still insist on smashing themselves to bits. When we survey history, we see what becomes of one group after another that oppose Jesus and his Church. They disappear into oblivion. Jesus is the future of the whole world. He won. He continues to win and will win in the end. Since Jesus is the future of the whole world, progress can only mean progress toward him, toward the civilization of justice and love he wishes to establish. Those who seek their own special interests are seeking a return to the past, to the Dark Age before Jesus. They seek to return to when humanity tried not just to know what was good and evil (eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), but to DECIDE it – to be gods themselves.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to be humble. Help me to accept you as Messiah and Savior – and as my future. So many times, instead of seeking you, I seek myself. I try to influence everything so that what is good and true is defined according to my will rather than yours. Please be patient with me and help me to change.
Resolution: In what area of my life is it hardest for me to accept the way God has organized things? Where do I most want to set up a system opposed to God’s plan in order to get my way? My resolution today has to be one that helps tear down this “structure of sin” in my life.