XXVII Sunday in ordinary time

XXVII Sunday in ordinary time

Sáb., 03 Out. 20 Lectio Divina - Ano A

First Reading: Isaiah 5: 1-7,

Second Reading: Philippians 4: 6-9,

Gospel: Matthew 21: 33-43

Isaiah 5: 1-7:The passage, taken from the book of the First or Proto Isaiah, is called the song of the vineyard. It is not just a canticle, in the sense of a lyrical composition with a solemn tone and narrative or religious content, in reality, people sang during the grape harvest festivals, a song of work and love. Two themes, we can say eternal, since man has existed on earth. There were also puzzles. People enjoyed finding some explanations. Perhaps Isaiah sang this, which is, at the same time, a love song and an enigma. But since he was also a prophet, he went beyond a purely literal sense: work and love took on higher meanings, and the enigma became even more mysterious. At the time, people didn't understand, but they enjoyed it. In the beginning, the prophet uses the language of love to indicate a relationship of intimacy ("my beloved ..., a song of love ...), but he immediately glimpses a disappointment. And here Isaiah turns to the spectators, asking them a question: what would you have done for this vineyard so well cared for but unproductive? The winemaker did all he could to make it bear fruit, but to no avail: something didn't work. Whose fault is it? Isaiah recalls what the Lord did for his vineyard, which, however, instead of juicy grapes, produces wild grapes. Often the people of God do not know how to correspond to the care of their Lord and to his expectations. 

Philippians 4: 6-9, the reading from the letter to the Philippians skips the central chapters in which Paul speaks of some practical situations and of his detractors, of which moreover he does not give us many indications. On this Sunday and on the following Sunday we will therefore read two passages from the last part of the letter, dedicated to practical exhortations and greetings.

V. 6 - In his latest exhortations to the dear community of Philippi, Paul inserts the invitation not to be dominated by anxious restlessness. The verb used is also found in the Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus exhorts us not to worry too much about food and clothing (Mt 6: 25.31.34). Rather, the Philippians must turn to God. We are in the hands of God, who is ready to hear us and to make a prayer of thanks flow from our lips. It is not a childish attitude, but it has its roots in a solid faith in the plan of salvation implemented by God.

V. 7- The effect of this faith will be the protection from God. The community is persecuted and lives every day the contradiction between God's message and harsh reality. But trusting in the Lord gives them the strength to persevere and to have a peaceful heart, despite all the difficulties.

V. 8 - At the end of the letter, Paul exhorts the Philippians to seek and think about what is best. Here we have a humanistic and philosophical perspective of great interest. The Christian community must be open to all the values ​​present in the world, making them its own. 

V. 9 - It is not enough to seek and think about what is right, true and noble, it is necessary to put into practice what is right, and above all what Paul himself taught with words and example! The final affirmation of the presence of the God of peace is a consequence of this behavior, but also a final greeting. 

Matthew 21: 33-43 

This Sunday's passage is strictly following that of last Sunday. Jesus in the temple is speaking to the chief priests and elders and with three parables, he is telling them that the people of Israel with their leaders (themselves) did not welcome the Messiah they were waiting for and will suffer the consequences. This Sunday's passage is the second parable, the one commonly called "of the murderous tenants".

The parable contains some moments in the history of the chosen people and is an autobiographical page that concerns Jesus himself and at the same time the birth of a new people, the Church. The meaning is transparent and immediate: the master of the house is God; the vineyard represents the privileges of Israel (Law, the promise of the Kingdom); the tenants are the Israelites, especially their leaders, such as Pharisees, scribes and priests; the servants sent by the master are prophets and apostles; the only begotten and beloved son is Jesus. The image of the vine dates back to the Old Testament and designates the chosen people.

In fact, in this story we do not speak of winemakers but of tenants, that is, of peasants, of farmers. More than a parable, it is a historical allegory: each element is a symbol of a very specific reality (farmers-Israel, the master-God, the messengers-the prophets ...). It doesn't seem to be an example taken from reality. It is unlikely that peasants behave in this way towards the messengers and their master's son.

The parable, however, will be very effective, since, in 45-46, which the liturgy does not let us read, it is said: "The high priests and the Pharisees, having heard his parables, understood that he was speaking of them. And they tried to arrest him, but they had fear of crowds, because they considered him a prophet ". The refusal of Jesus continues and goes to its extreme consequences.

V.33- Jesus therefore, after the parable of the two sons called into the vineyard, which had given him the opportunity to remind the high priests that they were wrong not to welcome John, adds to the dose and tells them another parable. This is even more explicit. The leaders of Israel have not accepted even the prophets, they have treated them badly, they have killed them, and they are about to kill the Son too.

This verse is the echo of a canticle from Isaiah, which we read in the first reading this Sunday. Quoting these words, which his listeners knew well, he immediately sets out his allegory with clarity. In fact, Isaiah during the song will affirm: "The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel; the inhabitants of Judah his favorite plantation" So the Lord will change the tenants (the leaders of his people), but he will not abandon his people.

V. 34-The farmers placed in the vineyard were not sharecroppers, but simple laborers, so they had to deliver all the fruits to the owner.

V. 35-While Mark's parallel speaks of individually sent servants who suffer violence gradually, Matthew speaks of several servants sent together and immediately subjected to the harshest treatments.

V. 36 -The tenants work neither for the owner's sake nor for the vineyard's sake, they just want to grab it at the owner's expense. Unlike the canticle of Isaiah 5 in which the vineyard did not bear fruit, the extent of the harvest is not mentioned here. The fault lies with the tenants who really don't want to know about the owner and his envoys. The symbol is evident. Farmers are the guides of the people of Israel who instead of bringing them into true communion with God, exploit them for their own interests and prestige.

V. 37 -The expression that we find translated last, in the end, is an expression of connection that brings us back to the Gospel of last Sunday (vv. 21,29 and 32): with the same expression, he speaks of the first son who then repented and went to work. The chief priests and the elders did not even repent "in the end". In the end, therefore, the owner decides to risk everything and to send his son.

V. 38 -The scene also recalls Gen 37: 18-20: the sons of Jacob who see their brother Joseph coming from afar and agree to kill him.

V. 39 -The way in which the murder of his son is told is also symbolic. The vineyard is the symbol of Jerusalem. The son, like Jesus, is killed outside the vineyard, that is, outside the holy city of Jerusalem (cf. Heb 13:12).

V. 40 - Now Jesus involves his listeners in history and makes them issue the condemnation that the guilty deserve. As the prophet Nathan did with David, Jesus too places himself on a level of human justice and causes the guilty to condemn themselves.

V. 41-The sentence is fair. The evil committed had to be punished with an evil of the same magnitude.

V. 42-Jesus neither praises nor reproaches his interlocutors. He responds to them with a passage from the writing that gives the key to the interpretation of his whole story. Since the guides of Israel did not deliver the fruits that they were supposed to grow and deliver, the Lord will turn to others, to those whom the leaders of Israel despised (especially Jesus). This quotation also seems to read the fact that the farmers had not even been able to make their owner's vineyard produce fruit.

V. 43-Here then is the final sentence against the high priests. The vineyard, the kingdom of God, will be taken away from them. He will give it to an ethnos "nation" which will make it bear fruit. Who is this ethnos? They could be the tax collectors and prostitutes of the previous parable (Mt 21: 31) or the "bad and good" who will replace the guests of the following parable (Mt 22:10), that is, those who have accepted the announcement that the leaders of Israel despised. In this way, ethnos can be identified with the Church, the new Israel that will take the place of the original one. It is made up of those who, despite coming from situations of sin and distance from God, believed in Jesus and followed him. They will thus have the privilege of being able to enter God's favorite vineyard, to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

While Isaiah, in the song of the vineyard, had affirmed that the final judgment is abandonment, Jesus reveals that the vineyard will be given to others. In practice, the gift of the kingdom of God passes from Israel to other people, capable of bearing fruit and carrying out its project, its kingdom. Since God is faithful, he wants to fulfill his promise and when he finds obstacles, he looks for other solutions. Man's infidelity does not block God's fidelity. Even if the man disappoints God's expectations, his love does not fail; in fact, God does not change the promise but the recipients. This makes us understand that none of us already have guaranteed salvation.

- What works did the Lord ask me to do when he sent me to his vineyard?

- What does it mean to exploit the vineyard for my interests or for my prestige?

- When and why did I reject those whom the Lord sent me to have my fruits?

- Who are the new tenants who will give the owner the fruit in due time?

Prayer:

Almighty ever-living God, who in the abundance of your kindness surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you, pour out your mercy upon us to pardon what conscience dreads and to give what prayer does not dare to ask. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.