The stone rejected by the builder
Today’s Gospel reading contains words from Psalm 118: 22-23 which says, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is a marvel in our days.”
I recall the great man called Nelson Mandela who was rejected by the leaders of his country South Africa and later put him into the prison for twenty-seven years. He tried to bring reforms, but no one accepted. When he came out of the prison, he came out with smiling and immediately sought reconciliation with the leaders of the cruel regime that kept him in prison all those years. The man once rejected became the President of a new multi-racial South Africa. His story is one of the greatest stories of our times. What makes it so great is that finally it triumphs over evil.
The first reading talks about the owner of the vineyard who did everything he could for his vineyard. And yet all it produced was sour grapes. The owner of the vineyard is God. God expected justice from his people but all he got was bloodshed. Because the vineyard failed to respond to God’s gracious care. God worked so hard to ensure that it would be a source of enjoyment and prosperity. Despite God’s tireless effort to bring prosperity, it produced an unacceptable fruit. There was no mistake on the part of God. The vineyard was rebellious.
In the Gospel reading the landowner is God and the vineyard is Israel. The wicked tenants are the people of Israel especially the religious leaders who had been given charge of the vineyard by God. The servants are the prophets sent by God and they were often rejected and killed. The son is Jesus himself whom they killed.
In fact, this parable of the vineyard looks backward. The leaders of Israel were given care of the vineyard, but they did not produce good fruits. They rejected the Son who came to help them produce a yield for the Lord. The vineyard was then given to new keepers. Through Jesus Christ the Gentiles are new agents of God’s purpose, blessing and grace in our world.
Unlike the first reading, in the Gospel the mistake is not with the vineyard. In fact, it produced an abundant crop. It is the very productivity, that caused concerns for the treachery described. In this case, these trusted stewards became traitorous stewards. They wanted the vineyard for themselves and they used any means to acquire it.
This applies to us today that there are times when God is doing regardless of what, we simply turn against God’s plan. We at times simply say that I will do what I want and nothing else. There are other times, we, as disciples of Jesus act as if the kingdom is ours or manage it as we see fit.
The parable shows very clear that there is only one way to overcome evil. Evil can be overcome only by good. What happens in the parable is evil. However, evil does not have the final say. In the end good triumphs just as Jesus did and so also in the case of the Mandela story. Jesus experienced all kinds of ugliness, but he did not answer it with more ugliness. Jesus triumphed over evil by always good. He is the model for all those who suffer unjustly in the cause of right. Jesus looks to all his followers who are the tenants of the new vineyard to produce the fruits of justice, love, and peace. It is a great privilege and also it is a great challenge.
By Susai Jesu, OMI
Vocation Team West