Bearing good fruit

deeplyrooted-crToday there is an optional memorial: St. Cyril of Jerusalem. You can find the readings here. Along with Athanasius of Alexandria, Cyril was a great defender of the Faith. St. Cyril’s is also noted for the twenty-three lectures given to catechumens in Jerusalem being prepared for, and after, baptism. Quite appropriate for this Lenten season.

Given my middle name is Cyril. I thought it good to celebrate this memorial, especially here in Lent. And given that I suspect this will be my last public Mass before our Bishop suspends all public masses because of the Covid-19 virus – I thought it good to offer some advice about being deeply rooted in Christ and still bearing fruit, even as the world around us sequesters in place. Continue reading

Your Vineyard: sign of Hope?

Gardens are a necessity. Vineyards are a sign of abundance beyond the necessary. As terrible a gardener as I am, I can get a crop of vegetables in several weeks’ time. Not so with a vineyard. Vineyards take a long time and hard work to develop.  Try googling “starting a vineyard;” the results might surprise you.  After you buy the land (and not just any location will do), it costs $20,000 a year per acre to cultivate a vineyard, and there is no cash flow for 3 to 5 years while you wait for the grapes to be good enough for the harvest.  There is a lot of patient, intensive work and commitment.  Vegetable gardens are near-term cash crop; you can change it up every year. Vineyards are a long-term investment with one fruit produced for one’s lifetime. Continue reading

The Stone Rejected: the people

As mentioned in a previous post, this expression ethnos might point to new people of God arising out of Jesus’ ministry and characterized by faith in him. We previously saw such a motif outlined in 8:11–12 and in the rabble of tax-collectors and prostitutes who “go ahead of” the chief priests and elders into the kingdom of God (vv. 31–32). The term ethnos, “nation,” calls for some such understanding, takes us beyond a change of leadership to a reconstruction of the people of God whom the current leaders have represented. Continue reading

A Stone Rejected: the One

The Traditional Interpretation. This interpretation holds that the parable is a symbolic account of the history of Israel, whose leadership (tenants of v.34) has rejected God’s earlier prophetic messengers (cf. Jer 7:25–27 seen in servants of vv.34-35). In v.37 the parable leaves Israel’s past and intuits the events of the Passion and Crucifixion that lay in the days to come. Indeed, the leaders of Jerusalem will seize Jesus and crucify him outside Jerusalem (cf. v.39). Where the traditional interpretation begins to waver starts in v.43 taking on a different direction from its OT parallel in Is 5:1-7: Continue reading

A Stone Rejected: vintage time

laborers-in-the-field-11thcentbyzantineCommentary. This parable begins much like Isaiah 5:1-2 (the reading from the OT accompanying our gospel). It is the third parable in Matthew with a vineyard setting (20:1-16, the workers in the vineyard; 21:28-32, the two sons). What does the vineyard represent? In Isaiah it represents Israel and many have assumed that is its meaning in the parable, e.g., the vineyard = Israel; the tenants = religious leaders; landowner’s slaves = prophets whom they rejected. With this interpretation, we note that the vineyard is not destroyed, but turned over to new tenants. To use another biblical metaphor, the unfaithful, greedy shepherds are removed (Mt 9:36; Ezekiel 34) and new shepherds are installed to care for the sheep. Continue reading

A Stone Rejected: context

laborers-in-the-field-11thcentbyzantineMatthew 21:33–43 33 “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. 34 When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. 35 But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. 36 Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. 37 Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ 39 They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” 41 They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes’? 43 Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit. Continue reading

Vineyard workers: reflection

What Can We Say. Patricia Datchuck Sánchez writes:

“Like most scriptural texts, this parable also should be evaluated and appreciated with regard for its various levels of development. At its initial or basic level, the parable defended Jesus’ missionary methodology of reaching out to extend the blessings of the kingdom to tax collectors and sinners. Whereas his contemporaries believed these to be pariah with no claim to salvation, Jesus’ words and works indicated that sinners were not only on equal footing with the righteous but were in fact the ones to whom God manifested special love and mercies.” Continue reading

Vineyard workers: assumptions

Caught in the Midst of Assumptions. It is interesting that it is the “manager” or “steward” (epitropos), not the owner, who calls the workers and “gives them their pay/reward” (misthos). They are the ones who dispense what the owner considers right and just. They are also the ones who take the flak from those who disagree. I think we can all relate to being the one thrust into the middle of something not necessarily of our own making. Continue reading

Vineyard workers: daily wage

1 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  2 After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  3 Going out about nine o‘clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,  4 and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’  5 So they went off. (And) he went out again around noon, and around three o‘clock, and did likewise.  6 Going out about five o‘clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  7 They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’  Continue reading

Vineyard workers: more context

Long (Matthew, Westminster Bible Companion) writes concerning the rich man story, which also applies to our text: “… we must realize that, when the young man encounters Jesus, two very different worlds collide: this world, with all its prevailing customs and values, and the radical new way of life called for in the kingdom of heaven.” [p. 220]

This radical life comes at a price. Peter understands that and so he asks, “what about us who have already given up everything,” Jesus points to the life within the kingdom and then concludes that the called-for reversal will also be evident in the order of blessing on entering the kingdom: “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Mt 19:30) Continue reading