"Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance." So they seized him, 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 said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time." Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures: 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in our eyes'? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to person that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls." When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet. Matthew 21:31-46 [Proper 22A]
Thank you, Jesus. The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob is now the God of Bill, and Jane, Robert and William, and you and me too! In Christ, now we too are the chosen people. That is the lesson of today’s gospel.
Jesus is in the temple in Jerusalem and things are starting to heat up. In parable after parable, Jesus tries to slap the religious leaders awake. They are the problem not the solution. Their pride has perverted God’s covenant with Israel. The Father has sent the prophets and the Baptist. And now he sends the Son. Over and over God tells them to repent. But here they sit resplendent and self-satisfied in Solomon’s temple. They love the perks and the trappings. Why repent? They have a good thing going. Can’t you even here them whispering – if it isn’t broke…don’t fix it!
Jesus is telling stories. But he is deadly serious. He sees the cross. He is ready to pay the price. But with that unspeakable pain, comes infinite gain. And we are the beneficiaries. Jesus tells us: The kingdom of God will be …given to a people that will produce its fruit.
Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are that people. The stone that the builders rejected is our rock of ages – cleft for you and me. Jesus throws open the gates of salvation and invites us in. We are the children of the new covenant, built on love of God and love of neighbor.
But before we get to feel too smug and superior to the scribes and Pharisees, we could use a reality check. Has our pride perverted the new covenant? Are we so full of ourselves there’s no room for Jesus? Was Bernard Shaw right to mock that: “Christianity might be a good thing if anyone ever tried it?” Are we a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice? Even Gandhi sadly scolded us: “If Christians lived according to the teachings of Christ…all of India would be Christian today.”
How have we tended the vineyards of the Lord? What have we done with the legacy of the new covenant? How will we witness Christ’s love today and tomorrow? Are we making a Christian difference? Or are we just a new edition of same old, same old? We get to decide every day. So today, let’s stand with Jesus. Dig deep. From the bottom of our hearts praise God, thank God. Love each other. Fill the day with joy. We are God’s chosen people, but only if we choose each day.