Tobit 1:3; 2:1a-8
Mark’s gospel has Jesus arriving in Jerusalem and strongly asserting his mission. Jesus does so in many ways. Perhaps his boldest confrontation is the parable he tells of the evil tenants. His learned opponents and determined murderers were in his audience. They knew the parable well since it was also used by Isaiah.
With great precision Jesus repeats the story of the owner of the Vineyard, the care taken to make the vineyard a great success. He rents out the vineyard to tenants and awaits his harvest. His first messengers are beaten and rejected, a second servant was seriously hurt, the third was killed.
Finally, the owner sends his son, thinking "they will respect my son." They did not, but conspired to kill the son so they might gain total possession. And that is what they did.
What will the owner do? He will put the tenants to death and give the vineyard to others..
Jesus breaks away from the story and talks about the reality. "Have you not read this scripture Passage?" "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, by the Lord has this been done. In this religion you have grown fat and you have had more than enough. I am the Son and Successor of the prophets whom your predecessors maltreated, and now you have hatched a plot to have the Romans crucify me. Eventually, you will pay the penalty."
Mark wrote before the Romans leveled Jerusalem, burned the temple, crucified or scattered the people. Small groups of Christians were taking over. That, you know, is the history.
Christians know the warning. And the failure of the Jewish leaders could, and on occasion has happened to us. Our leaders have been deaf and blind at times and led the flock astray. In our personal lives we are carefully planned vineyards, but have we yielded fruit? Have we betrayed the Son of God and made his pains a mockery?
Lent is here. A time of repentance. A time of renewal. The Crucifix tells us all that the Son of God has done for us. The Jews and many others have heard but hardened their hearts. Let us pray for ourselves and for all God’s People that we prove to be faithful and not unworthy tenants.
Fr. Fred Sucher, C.P. is retired and lives in the Passionist community in Chicago. For many years he taught philosophy to Passionist seminarians.