Today, when listening to the readings, we heard similarities between the First Reading from the Book of Isaiah and the reading from the Gospel of Matthew. Both spoke on the same subject in different ways. The Book of Isaiah referred to this subject as “The Song of the Unfruitful Vineyard” while the Gospel of Matthew referred to it as “The Parable of the Wicked Tenants.”
To understand who the Wicked Tenants were in the Parable that Jesus gave, it is necessary to know who Jesus was speaking to. When Jesus gave the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, He was prophetically addressing the chief priests and the Pharisees who were present. This truth is supported by the details that are found in the different Gospels on the subject of the Passion of Jesus where we learn that it was the chief priests and the Pharisees who condemned Jesus to death.
The vineyard represents Israel, the chosen people of God that had been freed from captivity, led to the land of promises and received endless blessings from the Lord. The landowner is the Lord God who owns the chosen people. They are His people.
When we are told that at harvest time, the landowner sent his servers to the tenants to collect his produce, we are told that when God expected righteousness from His people in return for His blessings, He sent the prophets. The tenants, the chief priests and Pharisees, seized the prophets, beat one, killed another and stoned another. All the prophets that were sent by God, one by one, received equal treatment.
Finally, the landowner, God, sent His only beloved Son Jesus to them, saying, “They will respect my Son.” Rather than believing and accepting the teachings of Jesus as the Son of God and the promised Messiah, the chief priests and the Pharisees plotted against Him and killed Him.
Why did they plot against Jesus and kill Him? It is because the chief priests and the Pharisees saw the crowds of thousands of people who were following Jesus to hear His Word. They saw the influence that Jesus had on the people. They witnessed the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus. They feared the arrival of the Kingdom of God that Jesus was preaching, a Kingdom that would take away their dishonest positions of glories and honors.
When Jesus stated that the tenants had said, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance,” He was speaking of the manner in which the law of those days was applied.
When a heir died without having made a legal will, his property was considered unoccupied land that went to the first person who claimed it. If tenants were on the land, they had the first opportunity to claim the property by their right of occupation.
Now Jesus, being the rightful King of kings and Lord of lords, held the inherited right as the Son of God to rule in the Kingdom of God.
Following what has just been said, Jesus made two prophetic statements.
First of all, quoting Psalm 118, Jesus stated that the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. He, whom the chief priests and Pharisees were rejecting, was to become the cornerstone of the Holy Catholic Church and Christianity, the first fruit of many to follow, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. It is He who rules in the eternal Kingdom of God.
Secondly, Jesus stated, “Therefore, I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the Kingdom.” Here, Jesus was prophesying that the Gentiles would be admitted into the Kingdom of God, the Holy Catholic Church, the Body of Christ.
Looking back in history, we can now say that all these things have come to pass. But what about the spiritual meaning of the Parable, the meaning that transcend all times?
Spiritually, Jesus was prophesying about this age and the standard that we must meet to inherit the Kingdom of God. The landowner is Jesus Himself. He has established His Holy Catholic Church on earth and He has left this world to sit at the right hand of the Father. [Acts 2:33] In charge of His Church, He left tenants to produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The tenants are those who have been admitted into the Body of Christ, having been baptized, having received the promised gift of the new creation, the new heart and the new spirit. They are the holy priesthood, the chosen race, the holy nation, the children of God who will inherit the eternal Kingdom. We are the tenants of God’s Kingdom!
One verse in Matthew 21:33 is very important. It says that the landowner leased the land to the tenants. It does not say that He gave it to them. He leased it. When something is leased, something is expected in return. Equally, those who qualify to become the children of God are expected to become shining lights [Mt. 4:16] in the world. They are expected to shine in the love of Christ towards all. They are expected to grow in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. These spiritual qualities are what the Heavenly Father expects His children to present to Him in return for His blessings in acknowledgement and appreciation of the gift of life that God has given them through the Blood of Christ.
We then come to the passage about the slaves. Who are the slaves? As God the Father sent slaves who were the prophets in the days of the Old Testament, Jesus also sends slaves in the world today. These slaves, as the prophets who answered their callings and did God’s work, are today’s ministers of the Word of God. They are the priests, the Bishops, the Cardinals, the Pope. They are the slaves of righteousness in Christ.
As in the days of the Old Testament, nowadays, many reject the Word of God. And they also reject those who are being sent by the grace of God to teach the truth by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Name of Jesus. Going beyond sending His slaves, as the landowner sent His Son to the tenants, Jesus also sends someone who proceeds from Him. He sends the Holy Spirit. But as Jesus was rejected and killed, many today are rejecting the sanctifying works of the Holy Spirit, dulling their spiritual minds to the extent that they can no longer hear the Divine Voice within their hearts. By rejecting the indwelling Divine Presence of the Holy Spirit, they end His Holy indwelling within them. This spiritual suicide is no different than that in the Gospel reading today of the killing of the heir to the throne.
While rejecting the Holy Spirit, they still expect to receive the inheritance of the Kingdom of God that belongs to the true children of God who persevere in their living faith.
They ignore that faith without works is dead!
Some have accepted the Holy Catholic Church’s Sacrament of Baptism, professed their faith in Christ and the teachings of the holy and apostolic Church, received God’s gift of the new creation… but rejected the Holy Spirit, they don’t worship the Lord or practice their faith. They expect to be saved by their own human power, by living a good life without the absolute necessity of the Church Sacraments and perseverance in the Christian faith. They believe beyond any doubt, without the power of the Holy Spirit, that the eternal glory and honors that awaits the children of God is theirs, like the chief priests and the Pharisees. There is no faith without deeds or according to the today’s parable without giving back to God what belongs to him.
How many people do we know who should be here with us at Mass but are not because they can’t be bothered, have more important things to do that to receive God’s love and meet him in his Body and Blood?
The sin against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable because the sin consists in telling God that He is not important, that He makes no difference to us, that he is only a marginal part of our lives if, indeed, He has any part at all in our lives. How can God forgive us if we think it doesn’t matter?
There’s no defense against rejection. No words can deal with rejection. There’s nothing we can do against it — which is perhaps why Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the personification of human judgment and rejection, and stood there in utter silence. Words simply cannot deal with the reality of rejection. Nothing can.