How are you doing sisters and brothers? Please receive a safe virtual hug, hoping that you are in the peace of God. In today’s brief reflection, Jesus encourages us to carry on despite everything. Let me read today’s lesson.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew, the 21st chapter (vv33-46)
Glory to you, oh Lord.
“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 a people 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.”
The Gospel of our Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
Grace and peace are yours from God, and from his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
One of the first words infants learn to say is “mine.” Our individualism is very strong. That is why we say in Spanish that “each head is a world”. Based on that saying, we live as if everything that happens in life revolves around ourselves. Although it is true that in our Latin American countries we place great value on the family and the community always putting them first, this has been a learned behavior, which can be good or bad, as there are people who develop negative emotions due to personal sacrifices they had to do for the collective wellbeing . In the North American society in which we live, for many years it was very similar, but recent generations have learned to place a high value on individual development, which can create more self-confident personalities. On the other hand, they can create very selfish and ungenerous personalities.
In our Gospel today, Jesus tells us about a family man who, protected by property laws, makes a production contract for his vineyard. Then the tenants rebel against the authority of the landlord, and their selfishness leads them to be very greedy. To the point that they don’t mind committing crimes to satisfy their personal desires.
In interpreting this story, some fall into the anti-Semitic error of comparing evil tenants with the Jews. That is not like that. Rather there is a comparison with the Song of the Vineyard of Isaiah. So the nation, the people in that case, would be the productive vineyard, but the religious leaders of that time would be the ones who wanted to keep all the benefits. They forgot that the owner of everything is God. We must be careful not to think that we have belongings. Instead, everything belongs to God and we only manage what belongs to God, even the house where we live.
I want to highlight the fact that Jesus knew that those leaders of his time rejected him. But rejection was nothing new to Jesus, he was rejected by his family and by many in his community. If he hadn’t faced the most heartbreaking difficulties, how could he help us when we have to go through such difficult experiences ourselves? He approached the rejected lepers and touched them, they judged him for hanging out with sinners and prostitutes.
Maybe you at some point have felt rejected for your way of thinking, which is different from how other people you love very much think and make their decisions. That rejection hurts! Or perhaps you’ve never been hurt, and that could be good. But it also means that perhaps you have never experienced the healing, encouraging and renewing touch of the crucified and risen Jesus.
I know many who live with pain and rejection, and you know what? They have been my best advisors inspiring me to continue. Get ready, it may be your turn to be that person who accompanies others in their weakness, for God’s Sake.
Let us pray,
Dear God, owner of the universe, we come to you today recognizing the privilege we have to live in your world. Thank you, oh God, for sending us Jesus Christ, to teach us to rest all our anxiety on you. We pray for health for those in general who are ill, including President Trump and his family. In the midst of our polarization, we acknowledge our sin of rejection and prejudice. Forgive us, Lord. May we also feel your presence when we are rejected and give us strength to do justice. We ask this through the merits of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and with the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
Thank you for joining me and listening to this reflection. May the Lord guide your steps this week. Until next time, stay with God’s blessing.
The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord’s face shine on you with grace and mercy. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. Amen.
+ Bishop Pedro Suarez
Florida-Bahamas Synod, ELCA