Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a
Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
In our global village there still exist some remote or even minority cultures where the written word is not as prominent as the spoken word. If you ever get the chance to spend time in one of these auditory cultures, gift yourself with that opportunity. You will find that people who come from auditory cultures are great storytellers, amazing musicians, and willing listeners.
Jesus’ culture was this way. Society had not yet evolved to the degree where pen or ink, paper or papyrus, were commonplace. Only an educated few could read and write. Therefore the ability to tell stories filled with insight and irony, or tragedy and truth was exemplified as an honorable and effective way of communication.
The Gospel today is one such story. Jesus speaks about a landowner who had a vineyard who took the time to make all the right preparations so the vineyard would be functioning, attractive, productive, and fruitful.
The landowner has taken care of all of the details. Simply following the course, doing what is expected, would almost ensure a fruitful crop and a flavorful vintage. Yes the landowner does take a little journey. Nevertheless, those he puts in charge abuse their authority. They had no authority to beat, stone, or kill. And once they do this it is easier to repeat the pattern. As Jesus continues the story we see that the tenant farmers continue their destructive behavior. Have you noticed in your own life that once you begin destructive behavior is easier to repeat it?
As a master craftsman of story, Jesus now has his own enemies judging the wretchedness of the workers and predicting their future demise. Soon after speaking this prediction they understand the cleverness of Jesus’ parable as they realize they have just judged and condemned themselves. Don’t we frequently do that in our own lives?
It is also interesting to note how Jesus understands his father. Jesus does not set him on a throne over a lofty kingdom. Instead, Jesus suggests that his father is more like the one who owns the land. Reflecting on this in our contemporary world, we know that land owners have a vested interest with what happens on their property. A good land owner will work together with the workers to produce a rich harvest. A good landowner is interested in the welfare and well-being of its workers. If we push the example into our personal lives, I’m sure all of us have had the experience where we felt like we were working with others to achieve a common goal. This kind of feeling is energizing, creative, rewarding and worthy of our time and investment. I think this is a good lesson to hold in prayer especially during this Lenten season. Do you see how it forces us to wrestle with what we believe to be God’s expectations of us?
Some other questions for reflection this day include:
Do you believe that God wants truly what is best for you? Do you honestly believe God will give you what you need, when you need it? Are you aware of how God works with you in the mission to which you have been called?
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is on the staff at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center, Citrus Heights, California.