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Are We Good Tenants?
Friday of the Second Week of Lent
Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ 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.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” 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.” 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? 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.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them. And although they were attempting to arrest him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.
Opening Prayer: Lord, you were speaking to the elders and Pharisees, but please open my heart to the message you also have for me in these moments of prayer. I want to be a good tenant.
- Jesus Addressed the Elders: Throughout his ministry, Jesus never ceased to warn and admonish the Elders and Pharisees because their very lives were in danger, and no one knew it better than Jesus did. Here, Jesus was trying to reach them with yet “another parable.” It was as if he was pleading with them to take heed. In some ways, Jesus’ persistent efforts to reach them can console us as we fervently pray for fallen-away family members or friends. We may grow weary of praying and sacrificing for them but Jesus never ceases to offer them means for their salvation. As he reminds us in another Gospel passage, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is always looking for his lost sheep.
- Good Tenants: In this parable, tenants were put in charge of the landowner’s very valuable vineyard. We don’t know exactly why they refused to hand over the produce, but we might imagine they enjoyed their luxurious lifestyle (sensuality), wanted to stay in control (pride), or liked the prestige (vanity). They succumbed to temptations and murdered the servants, and even the son, to have their way. Our Lord has put us in charge of his vineyard and invites us, as his faithful tenants, to bear fruit. Paradoxically, if we cooperate lovingly by handing over our temporal and spiritual works, we will inherit the Kingdom for all eternity without violence or bloodshed.
- Cornerstone: No one was more familiar with Scripture than the elders and Pharisees, so Jesus’ reference to Psalm 118:22, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…” was a clear declaration of his messianic reality. Would they believe? Because they saw and did not believe, Jesus condemned them. They were fruitless, doomed to live outside the Kingdom. What must we do to be saved? “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Conversing with Christ: Lord, you spoke in a parable to the elders and Pharisees, but in your mercy, you were crystal clear in your meaning. You are the Son, the Cornerstone, and the Messiah. Help me, Lord, to believe wholeheartedly, without a doubt, that you love me and hear my prayers, especially prayers I make on behalf of my friends and family.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray an Our Father for the conversion of souls.
For Further Reflection: Reflect on Psalm 118 in light of today’s parable.
Maribeth Harper celebrated paying the last tuition bill for her kids’ college by writing a book for moms who have college-aged young adults, And So We Pray, Guidance for Moms with College-Aged Young Adults. She is a wife of thirty-five years, mother of four, and grandmother of nine and counting.
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