“Let me sing to my friend the song of his love for his vineyard”. These are the opening words of today’s First Reading from Isaiah. However, it turns out to be a sad song about a neglected vineyard that produced sour wine. The Responsorial Psalm identifies the vineyard as the House of Israel.
Moving on to the Gospel (Matt 21:33-43), Jesus addressed the Jewish leaders with the familiar imagery of the vineyard. He was well aware that they were scheming and plotting against him. So, he confronted them with a parable about evil tenants who killed not only the servants of the owner but his son also. He let these leaders know that he was aware of their intentions.
God had sent prophets and inspirational leaders, but people rejected them when their preaching became a threat to their politics or way of living. Finally, God sent his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. He was a man of noble ideals, compassionate to all who were suffering, a bringer of healing and peace. How on earth was this good man rejected? We can invent our own parable to offer a simple understanding of what happened. Our eyes are made for light, but if the eye is sore we cannot stand the light. Our tummies are made for food but when the tummy is sick we cannot stand even the smell of food. The soul is made for God, but the soul that is sick is threatened by the goodness of God. Those who love evil hate the light and avoid it for fear their actions should be exposed (cf. John 3:20). When we hear criticism of our religion, remember that the criticism probably reveals more about the sick soul of the critic than the object of the criticism.
Excavations in recent years of the area near the Temple revealed the lavish lifestyle of the priestly people who lived there. Even at the age of twelve the boy Jesus was not impressed with what he saw in Jerusalem and he promised that one day he would confront the situation. Pilgrims were being ripped off left right and centre with all sorts of taxes. He cleansed the Temple of these money-makers on at least one occasion. He was a serious threat to their abuse of religion.
The rejected stone
Jesus was rejected, but in the providence of God, the rejected stone became the keystone to hold all of life together. Before cement was invented, the stability of a stone structure depended on the interlocking of the stones. The cornerstone locked the walls together. From years of repairing a sea-wall in Donegal I learned that, if a stone was the correct size and shape, then any vibration or big wave actually clamped the stones more tightly together. Jesus, by rising from the dead, became the keystone that holds life together. When life threatens to fall apart, then more than ever we realise how much we need God to hold all together. “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.”
The keystone of life
At this time of insecurity and anxiety about the increasing number of Covid 19 victims, we need to trust the Risen Lord as the keystone of our lives. The role of Christ as the keystone of life is beautifully described by Saint Paul today’s Second Reading. Ponder deeply on these words of trust and peace.
“There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus. Finally, fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise. Keep doing all the things that you learned from me and have been taught by me and have heard or seen that I do. Then the God of peace will be with you” (Phil 4:6-9).
In the light of God’s Word we pray.
May the Church as the community of believers, bring the light of Christ to all people.
For all who feel rejected, cast aside or undervalued. May they be consoled in remembering that Jesus too was rejected but was later recognised as the cornerstone of life.
For all who are searching for meaning and direction in life. May they turn to Jesus whose example is the way, whose teaching is the truth, and who leads us to eternal life.
Lord, open our eyes and hearts to anybody whom we have rejected or undervalued and help us to make it up with them.
(Add prayers for any local, personal or topical intention)
O God, the bringer of new life, graciously hear the prayers we offer in the name of Jesus Christ our Risen Lord. Amen.
Br Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap.