Tenant in the Vineyard of the Lord

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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, help me to pray well to overcome my selfishness. Instead of thinking of myself and my own comfort, enjoyment, and entertainment, help me to think first of the needs of others and especially how I might help them take a step closer to you today.
 
Encountering Christ:

  1. For the Benefit of Others: The tenants in the parable used their talents for their own enjoyment, comfort, and entertainment, and they eventually lost everything. When Jesus created us, he gave us talents to use for a mission. Not only are we supposed to work to get ourselves to heaven, but the Lord also invites us to help bring others there as well. The talents and abilities we have are meant to be used for this task—not for our own profit. When we accomplish the Lord’s work, we are rewarded as people “that produce fruit.”
  2. Am I Profitable for God?: The tenants could have used part of the fruits of their labor to take care of their personal needs (and they would have received even more than they needed), but these tenants wanted it all. In the same way, God allows us to use our talents to take care of our own needs as well as to enjoy life—after all, God ordered us not to work every single day, but to set aside the seventh day for worship, rest, and recreation. However, like the tenants in the parable, we are also expected to make a profit for him. Do we use our talent–our time, energy, intelligence, creativity–for his profit? This is the way we love the Lord with our “whole heart and with all my soul and with all my mind and with all my strength” (cf. Mark 12:30).
  3. Final Reckoning: Everything in the vineyard belonged to the landowner. The property was his. He planted the vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower. All the tools belonged to him as well. The tenants provided only the labor. Our life is similar. We provide only the labor. None of the tools–our talents–belong to us. They come from God. He has the right to expect us to use them, not only for our own needs, but for his profit as well—for the good and salvation of those around us. He sends us people to remind us of this. Do we ignore them? Do we treat them the way the tenants treated the landowner’s servants? 

Conversing with Christ: Lord, so often I forget about you and end up focused on my own goals and desires. Yet you put me here to cooperate with you in your saving mission. You gave me the tools I need to fulfill this mission. Help me to remember this truth throughout my day, to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks me for a reason for my hope” (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).
 
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will look for an opportunity to give reasons for my hope, realizing that the greatest preaching I can do is to live an example of Christian charity that wins hearts for Christ and helps people remember that he has not forgotten his world.
 
For Further Reflection: The Soul of the Apostolate by Jean-Baptiste Chautard.
 
Father James Swanson is from Miles City, Montana, joined the Legionaries of Christ in 1983, and currently works in Atlanta, Georgia. He enjoys books, craft beers, and extreme birding.

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