Bible Cross-References
by Jason

Isaiah 5:1-7 – The Lord planted a vineyard, namely Israel.

Psalm 80:8-15 – Israel is a vine which the Lord planted and took care of.

Genesis 49:22 – Joseph is a fruitful bough.

Jeremiah 2:21 – I planted you a choice vine, but you turned into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine.

Jeremiah 8:13, Isaiah 7:23 – The vines will be destroyed if the people turn from God.

Luke 11:48 – Your fathers killed the prophets.

Matthew 23:37 – Jerusalem kills the prophets.

1 Kings 18:4 – Jezebeel killed the prophets.

Jeremiah 38:4-6 – Jeremiah is thrown into a pit.

Hebrews 11:36-38 – A list of some of the trials and torture the prophets faced because of the message they brought.

Psalm 118:22 – The stone which the builders rejected became the cornerstone.

2 Corinthians 6:2 – Today is the day of salvation.

Matthew 7:19 – Every tree that does not bear fruit will be uprooted.

John 15:1-16 – Vines in Jesus should bear fruit.

Matthew 3:8 – Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

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Inductive Bible Study

Lector's Notes
by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

So the grapevine images in this reading and today’s gospel stand for real people defying their real God. The prophet feels God’s frustration in his own heart, and expresses that emphatically. What you want to convey, as lector, is Isaiah’s feeling, “I’ve got to let these people know the seriousness of their sin.” Follow the prophet’s lead:

Isaiah starts by sneaking up on his audience, rhetorically speaking, rather casually telling a story: “My friend” went about the routine task of planting wine grapes.

Isaiah routinely describes normal agricultural tasks for several sentences. The lector should sound matter-of-fact.

Then, an unexpected twist!: the yield is only wild grapes! Let the lector sound surprised.

It becomes a first-person narrative then, with the indignant “What more was there to do for my vineyard?” The lector should practice sounding outraged.

There follow three dramatic sentences about “my” utter rejection of the vineyard. As lector, deliver these rapidly. Then pause.

Finally comes the personal application, the indictment of unfaithful Israel. A slow, determined speaking of these sentences will be right, like a judge pronouncing sentence on a convict at the end of trial.

Second Reading

To capture the Apostle’s tone when you proclaim this, imagine yourself saying a fond farewell (Paul was in prison, perhaps facing execution, when he wrote this) to a small group of beloved intimates. You need not imagine your deathbed; you could pretend to be a beloved college professor at retirement time, or a parent on the eve of your child’s wedding. Just do what it takes to make your congregation feel loved, that you believe in them, that they’re capable of whatever is true, honorable and gracious.

Intro to Readings
by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

Isaiah speaks symbolically, starting with a pleasant pastoral image, telling a story that takes two surprising twists.

Second Reading

Of all the churches addresed by Paul, the Philippians received the gospel most enthusiastically and supported Paul’s missions most vigorously. The Apostle expected the most from them. From prison, where he knows he might never leave, Paul writes them a fond farewell.

Gospel

Saint Matthew’s community were Jews who had become Christians. But they still had to deal with Jews who had not accepted Jesus. Their refusal confounded the believers. It helped them to remember some of Jesus’ parables and applications of their Scriptures to similar questions.

Word-Sunday.com

by Larry Broding

Click image to watch

FIRST READING

Calling Upon God When Times Are Bad

Why do churches fill with petitioners when times are bad, but seem half empty in good times? How do you take God seriously? When have you called upon the Lord in need? What happened?

PSALM

Come, Lord, Restore Us

How have you prayed in times of desperation? What were the results of those prayers?

SECOND READING

The Good Example

Who do you know that shows good example for others? Why are these people admirable? What sort of example have you given this week? How can you improve your example? How has your example succeeded in bringing others closer to Christ?

GOSPEL

Intimidation, Violence, Retribution

When is the use of violence justified? Do you find yourself surprised by the violence of the Kingdom? Or, do you find the stories of the Kingdom, like this parable, stale and distant? Why? The root of violence is anger (the desire for revenge) and hatred. How have you fought these vices in your life. How have you pursued peace with others? Peace in society? Who challenges my fight against anger and hatred? Pray for that person (or people) as the first step to reconciliation.
INTROFIRSTPSALMSECONDGOSPELCHURCH FATHERS
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First Reading

commentary

My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines...Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes. — Isaiah 5:1-2

EXCERPT: God will withdraw the divine protection. Jerusalem will be devastated and destroyed. Babylon is even now preparing to invade, to plunder, murder and to deport the population. Such will be the consequences of Jerusalem’s infidelity.—Fr. Clement

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Responsorial Psalm

Why have you broken down its walls, so that every passer-by plucks its fruit, the boar from the forest lays it waste, and the beasts of the field feed upon it? — Psalm 80:9

EXCERPT: In verses 13-14, the psalmist asks the Lord why He has not protected Israel, His vineyard, as He had in the past?  God has allowed Israel’s enemies to trample and lay waste to the land and His people.  In verse 15, the psalmist implores the Lord to look down from heaven, to see their plight, and rescue His people. —Michal Hunt

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Second Reading

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. — Philippians 4:8

EXCERPT: Despite St. Paul’s dire circumstances, His message is, if we truly have faith and trust in Jesus, then we should have no anxiety about earthly struggles because we belong to the eternal Christ.  Instead of focusing on all the bad in life, we should commit ourselves to prayer because the Lord is always near us and continually caring for us through His divine providence (Ps 119:151).—Michal Hunt

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Gospel

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. — Matthew 21:34-35

EXCERPT:  As holders of the vision of God we have an awesome responsibility towards people and towards the earth. We see the fruits of a lack of concern all around us. We watch at politicians put short term profit before the sufferings of people. I was told only yesterday of children with high levels of lead in their systems from mining contamination. The pollution of the most valuable resource, water, goes on daily. — Sr. Patricia

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commentary

My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines...Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes. — Isaiah 5:1-2

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First Reading

Isaiah 5:1-7

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Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

An unfruitful vineyard

FIRST READING—Isaiah ‘sings of his friend’ who has a vineyard. His friend (God) does everything he could for his vineyard (Israel) to produce good fruit. Instead, all it yields are sour grapes. Because the vineyard fails to respond to God’s gracious care, it will become what it has been without his favor, namely, a wilderness. As we shall see, today’s Gospel also echoes this theme of unfruitfulness.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

Those who give nothing of themselves

FIRST READING—The reading from Isaiah is called the Vineyard Song. It is very poignant. It is a reproach on those who are cherished but give nothing of themselves. The Scriptures are full of stories of God’s goodness to humankind. There are also stories of human response which is selfish, heedless, arrogant and lacking in compassion.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Commentary used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

What more could God have done for his people?

FIRST READING—How generous God has been to the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants! God has favored these people; God has purified them of all contamination; God has protected them from predators; God has done everything that an industrious vineyard farmer would do for his vineyard. With what results? Wild grapes! Useless and unproductive vineyard! God will withdraw the divine protection. Jerusalem will be devastated and destroyed. Babylon is even now preparing to invade, to plunder, murder and to deport the population. Such will be the consequences of Jerusalem’s infidelity. How poignant this song is from the great Isaiah of Jerusalem! To this very day, it echoes the distress of the loving God who has found only negative responses from the hearts of the people he has favored.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Hope for salvation despite unfruitful folly

FIRST READING—If we wanted to stage this selection from Isaiah in three movements, we could start with a single folk singer tuning her guitar and preparing to sing a ballad to the audience. The mellow tune and gentle picking will bring the audience into the performer’s mood and her fondness for the one of whom she sings. She sings about her friend, the owner of a vineyard.

This woman loves her friend, and her song conveys every bit of the owner’s tenderness for the vineyard. We can almost see him picking up clods, smelling them and letting the dirt fall through his fingers. We see him working his parcel, choosing the vines and preparing the press that would allow the grapes to yield their juice. Every moment the owner spent in the vineyard gave him pleasure; he loved the vines and dreamt of what they would produce.

The second verse of the song morphs into a lament. The singer doesn’t even get through the whole verse before her friend appears on stage to sing about his heartbreak. His song seeks no vengeance. With no emotional energy left, he weeps, “Let it fall to ruin! I can’t care anymore, I could not have cared anymore!”

In the third movement, the spotlight fades and a chorus appears. Every member looks directly at the audience and sings the final lines: “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel … he looked … for justice, but hark, the outcry!”

Philosophers invented the idea that God is beyond emotion. Our Scriptures give us quite a different image. The Book of Isaiah is full of rich depictions of the God who desires everything good for humanity: rich foods, a harvest of justice, life in abundance. The one thing today’s selection leaves out is the fact that the divine vineyard owner does not give up on the people. While there are moments of ruin and drought, God also tells Isaiah, “Give comfort to my people” (40:1).

As today’s Gospel and Eucharistic Prayer 4 remind us, God offers the covenant and invites us to hope for salvation from our unfruitful folly.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Commentaries

Sunday Readingscommentary

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The parable of the vineyard

The theme of Isaiah’s parable, in the First Reading, symbolizes Israel as God’s vineyard. Out of all the peoples of the earth, God chose the children of Israel. He “planted” them as His “cherished vine” in the soil of the Promised Land of Canaan, where their mission was to produce the “good fruit” of righteousness as His witnesses to the Gentile world. However, Israel became a vine that failed to yield “good fruit” despite all the protection and care God gave His “vineyard.” Israel only produced the “wild grapes” of rebellion in failing to keep the commandments of their covenant with Yahweh, God of Israel. In judgment for Israel’s covenant failures, Yahweh pronounced that His “vineyard” would forfeit His divine protection. He would allow a foreign power to trample and destroy His vineyard that failed to produce the “fruit of righteousness” to call His people to repentance.

Exploring the Text

The prophetic mission of Isaiah

God commissioned Isaiah as His prophet the year that King Uzziah of Judah died (740 BC).  The once united Kingdom of Israel had divided into the two nations of Israel and Judah in 930 BC. It was Isaiah’s prophetic mission to call a covenant lawsuit against an ungrateful people who abandoned their obligations to the covenant they made with Yahweh at Mount Sinai (Ex 24:3-8).  They apostatized from their covenant with God by disobeying His commandments, worshiping pagan gods, and oppressing the weak.  Yahweh sent Isaiah to warn them that He would use the mighty nation of Assyria as His instrument of judgment in calling Israel to repentance and back into communion with their divine Lord.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The theme of the parable

Isaiah’s parable in Is 5:1-7 is a poem/song God commanded him to deliver to the Israelites of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  The theme of the parable is the covenant people symbolized as God’s cherished vine chosen over all other vines (other nations).  However, because they failed to produce the “fruit” of righteousness deeds, the nation/vineyard lost the protection of God’s covenant blessings (Lev 26:3-13; Dt 28:1-14) and must accept His judgments (Lev 26:14-43; Dt 17-68).  It is a theme introduced earlier by the prophet Hosea (Hos 10:1) and was one of the reoccurring symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets repeated by Isaiah (Is 3:14; 5:1-5; 27:2-5), Jeremiah (Jer 2:21; 5:10; 6:9; 12:10), Ezekiel (Ez 15:1-8; 17:3-10; 19:10-14) and by the inspired writer of the Psalms (Ps 80:8-18).  See the chart on the “Symbolic Images of the Prophets.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Four different stages of Israel's relationship with God

In the symbolic imagery of Israel as God’s vineyard or vine, the prophets presented four different stages of Israel’s relationship with God.  Notice that Isaiah gives the three parts of Israel’s relationship with Yahweh in his parable of the vineyard:

Image Group Part I
Covenant relationship
Part II
Rebellion
Part III
Redemptive Judgment
Part IV
Restoration
Fulfilled
Vineyard
or
Fig tree
Well-tended vineyard/fruitful fig tree Vines grow wild/failure to produce fruit Weeds overgrow vineyard/ ruin and destruction Vines are replanted/
fruitfulness restored
[examples in Scripture] Isaiah 5:1-4a;
Ezekiel 19:10-11;
Jeremiah 24:4-7
Isaiah 5:4b;
Jeremiah 2:21;
Hosea 2:14;
Micah 7:1-4;
Joel 1:7, 11-12
Isaiah 5:3-6;
Ezekiel 15:6-8; 19:12-14;
Jeremiah 8:13; 24:1-10;
Nahum 3:12-15
John 15:1-2, 4-6
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Yahweh's preparation of the vineyard

Isaiah begins by speaking about his “friend,” who is the owner of the vineyard.  Isaiah’s “friend” is Yahweh, who has done everything possible to prepare a fruitful vineyard:

  1. He planted on a fertile hillside that will get full sun.
  2. He spaded the ground and cleared it of stones.
  3. He planted the best vines.
  4. He built a watchtower so servants can protect the vineyard.
  5. He dug out an in-ground winepress to prepare for the fruitful harvest.

Each of the preparations symbolizes what God did for Israel in the conquest of the Promised Land of Canaan:

He planted on a fertile hillside that will get full sun. God chose the land of Canaan as the place where His covenant people could thrive.
He spaded the ground and cleared it of stones. God led Israel in the conquest of the pagan peoples and removed them from the land.
He planted the best vines. God allotted the land to the twelve tribes of Israel.
He built a watchtower so His servants could protect the vineyard. God sent His prophets to watch over His people, and He protected His the Israelites from their enemies.
He dug out an in-ground winepress* to prepare for the fruitful harvest.+ In God’s divine plan for humanity’s salvation, He gave Israel the mission to bring the Gentile nations to salvation.  The purpose was to bring about the great harvest of souls into heaven and the Last Judgment at the end of the Age of Humanity.

*In the Bible, the “winepress” frequently appears as a symbol of obedience or judgment ( Is 63:3-6; Jer 48:33; Lam 1:15; Hos 9:2; Joel 4:13; Rev 14:19-20; 19:15).
+ The “harvest” is frequently used as a symbol of judgment (Is 17:11; Jer 50:16; Joel 4:13; Mt 13:39).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Israel as God's 'choicest vines'

2 he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it, he built a watchtower and hewed out a wine press.  Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes.

Verse 2 identifies the Israelites as chosen out of all the peoples of the earth to be God’s “choicest vines.”  The Hebrew word for “choicest vines” is soreq; it is the name of a high-quality plant identified by the blood-red color of its fruit (also see Gen 49:11; Is 16:8 and Jer 2:21).  In liturgical worship at the Temple, wine from these grapes provided the wine libation ritual at God’s holy altar, and because of its color, the wine was called the “blood of the grape” (see Sir 50:15).  In our liturgical worship, it is the “blood of the grape” that becomes the “Blood of Christ.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Thorns and briers

5 Now, I will let you know what I mean to do to my vineyard: take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled!  6 Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed, but overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds not to send rain upon it.

In verses 5-7, God gives the terms of the covenant lawsuit and the redemptive judgments that He will inflict upon an unrepentant people.  These temporal judgments are the opposite of the temporal covenant blessings God promised for obedience in Leviticus 26:1-13 and Deuteronomy 28:1-14.  Instead, God’s punishments recall the covenant judgments for disobedience promised in Leviticus 26:14-46 and Deuteronomy 28:15-69, including the penalty of invasion by foreign armies and exile (see Lev 26:32-35; Dt 28:49-52, 63-65).  The words “thorns and briers” recall the covenant judgment against Adam for his sin of rebellion against God’s sovereignty over his life in Genesis 3:18.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Prophecy of divine judgment

7 The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!

There is no misunderstanding of the parable; Isaiah identifies the “vineyard” as Israel.  In verse 7, the words “judgment,” “bloodshed,” “justice,” and “outcry” in the Hebrew constitute a play on words.

The prophecy of divine judgment took place in the second half of the 8th century BC, brought about by the collapse of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the invasion of the armies of Assyria.  The end of the Northern Kingdom came in 722 BC with the defeat of the capital city of Samaria, and the people’s exile into Assyrian lands to the east (2 Kng 17:1-6).

In 701 BC, the army of Assyrian King Sennacherib ravaged the nation of Judah.  The Assyrians besieged Jerusalem, the capital of the Southern Kingdom and Yahweh’s holy city, where His presence dwelt in the Temple (2 Kng 8:10-13; 2 Kng 18:13).  But good Davidic King Hezekiah called his people to repentance and turned to God, praying for His mercy and protection.  Yahweh delivered Judah from the Assyrians, and the nation had a reprieve as Isaiah foretold (2 Kng 19:20, 32-36).  However, after the death of King Hezekiah, Judah fell again into apostasy and faced divine judgment.  The Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah.  They destroyed Jerusalem and Yahweh’s Temple and the exiled the people in 587/6 BC, according to the warnings of God’s prophets, using the same “vineyard” and “vine” imagery (i.e., Jeremiah 8:13; 24:1-10; Ez 19:10-14).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Full restoration in Jesus and his Church

God is the Lord of history, and Assyria and Babylon were only instruments of judgment that God used to call His people to repentance and restoration.  However, while there was a temporary restoration with the return of the nation of Judah from the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BC, full restoration didn’t take place until the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Jesus identified Himself as the “vine” and the new Israel of His faithful disciples as the “branches” that would bear fruit in His New Covenant Kingdom of the universal Church (Jn 15:1-2, 4-6).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE):
Remember that episode of The Simpsons in which Bart goes and lives in a French vineyard and discovers that the evil Frenchmen who live there are lacing their wine with anti-freeze? Well, it was based on a true story—in Austria.By lacing the wine with diethylene glycol (a common ingredient in anti-freeze), wine makers were able to make up for a poor growing season of sub-par grapes, since seasoned wine lovers apparently preferred the taste of poison to sour grapes. Though no deaths were reported, the wine industry in the area was crippled—and when government officials poured thousands of gallons of the poison down into the sewers, they killed a bunch of fish in a neighboring town.
SOURCE: https://listverse.com/2013/02/25/10-disgusting-things-done-to-food-and-drink/
 
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Why have you broken down its walls, so that every passer-by plucks its fruit, the boar from the forest lays it waste, and the beasts of the field feed upon it? — Psalm 80:9

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Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20

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Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—The theme of the vineyard is continued in this psalm. The psalmist petitions God to watch his vineyard.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.

Commentaries

Saint Robert Bellarmine's Commentary
Commentary on Psalm 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20

12 A dreadful, but most just, scourge is here held out by God, to those who despise him; and that is, that sin shall be the punishment of sin to them; that means, they will be suffered continually to lapse into greater sins, until they shall have, at length, come to the lowest depths of misery, of which the Apostle thus speaks, Rom. 1, “Wherefore, God gave them up to the desires of their hearts;” and immediately after he adds, “For this cause God delivered them up to shameful affections;” and again, “God delivered them up to a reprobate sense to do those things which are not convenient.” This is the hardness of heart, of which Eccli. chap. 7, speaks, “Consider the works of God, that no man can correct whom he hath despised.” “So I let them go according to the desires of their own hearts.” I let them walk and work, in accordance with their own concupiscence; gave them no discipline, as I would to a child; but, as strangers, I allowed them to tumble down the precipice and be destroyed. “They shall walk in their own inventions.” They will not follow the paths of their fathers, nor the straight ways of my law, but they will follow whatever their own inventions or human curiosity may suggest, in the worship of false gods, and will thus fall into all the vices that disgrace human nature, when they are not directed by God’s light, supported by his hand, or assisted by his efficacious grace.

13–14 To show the abundance of the innate mercy of God, he returns now to the promises he made them, which, in the Hebrew, are accompanied by a wish, as if he said, Oh, that my people had heard me; for truly God is “the Father of mercies, and the God of all consolation.” Had they heard me, I would have humbled and cast down all those that now afflict her, in such a way that they would never be able to raise their heads again.

15 The prophet speaks here, and confirms what God had asserted, “But my people heard not my voice.” By his enemies he means the Jews, who from children became enemies, especially when they denied, in presence of Pilate, that Christ was their king; on which Daniel distinctly says, chap. 9, “And the people that shall deny him shall not be his.”—”The enemies of the Lord (the rebellious, incredulous Jews) have lied to him;” for they promised, at the foot of mount Sinai, that they would carry out all his commands; for “the people answered with one voice: We will do all the words of the Lord, which he hath spoken,” Exod. 24; and yet they did not do one of them; “and their time shall be;” their punishment will be everlasting, for the fire of hell will never be extinguished.

16 Behold the great ingratitude of the Jews, who had received so many favors from God, and still “have lied to him.” These words may have reference, to the manna that rained down to them in the desert, and the water that gushed from the rock; for that food might have been properly called “the fat of wheat;” because it was the bread of Angels, as it is called in Psalm 77; and it had, as we read in Wisdom 16, “The sweetness of every taste;” the honey out of the rock may have been the water; which, to the thirsty Hebrews, was then sweeter than any honey. The whole verse may refer to the land of promise, which, though rocky and mountainous, abounded in wheat, wine, and oil; so Moses writes, Deut. 32, “He sat him upon the high land, that he might eat the fruits of the fields, that he might suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the hardest stone.” The fat of wheat and the honey out of the rock are, however, in much more esteem with Christians, who have, under the appearance of bread, the body of the Redeemer, and the honey of heavenly wisdom from the rock, no other than the same Christ; and yet, how many, after renouncing the devil, his works, and his pomps in baptism, prove false to God, by returning to those very things they renounced; and, after partaking of bread from heaven, and honey from the rock, returns like unclean dogs, to their vomit. They ought to fear the eternity of the punishment in store for them, of the fire that will never be extinguished, of the worm that will never die.

SOURCE:  e-Catholic2000.com
Sunday Readingscommentary and homily help

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Israel is the vineyard of the Lord

The Responsorial Psalm is a lament from the tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel under attack by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC.  The Assyrian conquest was the result of  God’s divine judgment for covenant apostasy prophesied by Isaiah in the First Reading.  Using the familiar prophetic image of Israel as God’s vineyard, the psalmist reminds Yahweh of when He brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and “transplanted” them into the fertile soil of the Promised Land of Canaan as a holy nation.  He implores God to look down from heaven and protect the “vine” that He planted.

Exploring the Text

Israel's lament

This psalm is the lament of the northern tribes of Israel when they were under attack by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC.  The psalmist, using the familiar prophetic image of Israel as Yahweh’s vineyard and chosen vine, reminds God of when He brought the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and “transplanted” them in the Promised Land of Canaan.  God gave the Israelites the strength to drive out all of Israel’s enemies who were the land’s former inhabitants (verse 9), and under King David’s leadership, extended their dominion from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River, as Yahweh promised the Patriarch Abraham (verse 12; see Gen 15:18-21).

In verses 13-14, the psalmist asks the Lord why He has not protected Israel, His vineyard, as He had in the past?  God has allowed Israel’s enemies to trample and lay waste to the land and His people.  In verse 15, the psalmist implores the Lord to look down from heaven, to see their plight, and rescue His people.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
'The vineyard and the vine as metaphors for Israel'

16  take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted, the son of man whom you yourself made strong.

The vineyard and the vine are frequent metaphors for Israel in the Old and New Testaments (see, for example, Is 3:14; 5:1-5; 27:2-5; Jer 2:21; Ez 17:6-8; Hos 10:1; Mt 21:33 and the First Reading).  Significantly, the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament, the New Vulgate, and the NAB translate 16b: the son of man whom you yourself made strong.  The Jewish Masoretic text does not have this translation.  The Son of Man is Jesus’ favorite title for Himself and points to His humanity as also to His divinity as the “Son of Man” who is the divine Messiah of Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7:13-14.  Many Bible scholars believe the Septuagint may be the original translation from the Hebrew text since Hosea 10:1 and 11:1 speak of Israel both as “a vine” and as “a son” God loved and called out of Egypt (also see Ex 4:22).  The significance is that Jesus is the Son of Man (in His humanity) and the Son of God (in His divinity).  Jesus fulfilled the prophetic text of Hosea 11:1 when He was “called out of Egypt” as a child after the death of King Herod.  The Gospel of Matthew quotes the verse as a “fulfillment statement” in Matthew 2:15 when referring to the Holy Family’s return from Egypt: He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord has said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

In the Bible, the “Shepherd” imagery (i.e., Ps 23:1; 80:2), the covenant people as God’s “vineyard,” and a “vine” who is the Son of Man are metaphors Jesus used in His teachings.  The symbolic images in the Responsorial Psalm relate to the ministry of Jesus Christ in the New Testament:

  1. Jesus describes Himself as the “Good Shepherd” who guides His flock, the Church, and is willing to lay down His life for His sheep (Jn 10:14-18).
  2. In His teaching, Jesus uses the imagery of the vineyard in His parables to symbolize the Old Covenant people of Israel (i.e., Mt 20:1-16; 21:28-32, 33-44; Mk 12:1-9; Lk 13:6-9; 20:9-16).
  3. Jesus identifies Himself as the “Son of Man” who is the “Son of God” and “the true vine” whose life flows out to the branches that are his disciples of the New Covenant people of God (Jn 15:1-10).
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; Commentary used with permission.
Jesus' answer to the psalm

19 Then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name.  20 O LORD, God of hosts, restore us; if your face shines upon us, then we shall be saved.

Jesus Christ answers the petition in verses 19-20.  His mission was to restore and heal Israel.  He transformed the faithful remnant of old Israel into the new Israel of the New Covenant Church of His Universal Kingdom.  He came to bring new life and eternal blessings to God’s people in the Sacrament of Christian baptism and the other sacraments.  Jesus replaced the old temporal blessings of the Sinai Covenant with the eternal blessings of the New Covenant that promised release from bondage to death, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
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An almost 90-year-old statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus destroyed Sept. 15, 2020, is seen at St. Patrick's Cathedral in El Paso, Texas. Local authorities have apprehended a suspect in the vandalism who is said to have entered the border city's cathedral that day and attacked the statue. "As sad as I am to see a statue attacked and destroyed, I am grateful that it was not a living person," Bishop Seitz said. "But a statue, particularly this statue, concretizes and connects us to persons and ideals that are not visible to our eyes. They reveal to us realities that are close to us, but unseen."
SOURCE: Catholic San Francisco (CNS photo/Fernie Ceniceros, courtesy Diocese of El Paso)
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Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. — Philippians 4:8

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Second Reading

Philippians 4:6-9

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Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Paul addresses worry warts

SECOND READING—Paul addresses the “worry warts” in the Philippian community. In times of worry and anxiety, they are exhorted to turn to God in prayer and place their trust in him. In doing so, they will come to know the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” Then Paul exhorts his readers to live lives patterned after Christ. Christian thinking and behavior will open them to the kind of peace that only God can give.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

A warning of being over anxious

SECOND READING—Paul in the Philippians warns against over anxiousness. He tells us God is on our side in this. Live according to what we have been taught. Peace will be our gift. In other words, do what you can, commend to God what is beyond your strength.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Commentary used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Worry or anxiety does no good for the Church

SECOND READING—Although we frequently use the terminology of family life when referringto the Church community, most of us do not readily experience Church as family. Even religious orders and congregations of men and women religious are most often so structured and operate with formal procedures that their members do not perceive their lives as familial in nature. The Church at Philippi was different. It met in the home of the wealthy woman, Lydia, a “dealer in purple goods,”who was not from Philippi but had a home there too. Paul exhorts the members of the ‘house-church’ to practice the virtues of Christ himself in their relationships with one another, especially the virtue of humility. Jesus Christ had emptied himself of the divine glory that was rightly his in order to live humbly as one of us.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Prayer brings peace

SECOND READING—Winding toward the close of his letter to the Philippians, Paul makes recommendations to the community. Our selection skips the opening invitation to rejoice in the Lord (4:4), lending a more solemn tone to Paul’s instruction. Saying “have no anxiety” could make Paul sound either like Pollyanna or someone unconcerned about the real world. Paul is in neither of those camps.

Juxtaposing worry and prayer, Paul describes distinct orientations to life. One can move through life like C. S. Lewis’ character Puddleglum, a delightful creature uncannily capable of perceiving a motive for pessimism in every bright opportunity. That sort of anxiousness comes from the dual assumptions that “I will have to handle everything that will go wrong,” and, “Just about everything is on a negative trajectory.”

Paul’s antidote to this is prayer, and he uses four different words to describe it. He tells his people to turn to God with prayer, i.e., speech addressed to God. While that seems self-evident, Paul reminds the people that they really are invited to communicate directly with God. They shouldn’t act as if God were in the distant heavens watching over all. Prayer expresses their direct relationship with God. It requires no intermediary, no sacrifice or payment, nothing more than the willingness to enter into communication with God.

He tells them to go to God with petition, the admission that they are in need. The third word Paul uses for prayer is thanksgiving (eucharistia). Their prayer of gratitude is a joyful admission that they have received more than they deserved, that God is loving and generous. Finally, Paul refers to prayer as a request, the explicit mention of their particular desire or need.

Paul is not outlining an introduction to modes of prayer, but encouraging his community to understand that prayer is not simply an activity, but an approach to life. In everything they are to remember God’s presence and communicate with God, expressing their hopes and needs. Voicing their gratitude, they will fortify their faith. Remembering all that God has done is the surest way to move forward in trust.

A life of prayer brings “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” Paul’s next verses invite the community to contemplate what he has told them so that it may shape their life. To the extent that they are grounded in prayer, they will be able to care deeply about all that happens, and yet not be anxious.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Commentaries

Sunday Readingscommentary

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Put aside your anxiety

In the Second Reading, St. Paul wrote from his imprisonment, probably in Rome (Phil 1:12-14), to the Christian community in Philippi, a city in northeastern Greece.  St. Paul’s message is one of encouragement.  He wrote if we truly have faith and trust in Jesus, then we should have no anxiety about earthly struggles because we belong to Christ and are under His protection.  Instead of focusing on all the bad things that can happen in life, we should commit ourselves to prayer with the knowledge that the Lord is always near and continually providing the care of His divine providence.  In his letter, St. Paul suggests that constant dialogue with God is the way to prevent anxiety, to express our gratitude to God for all that is good, and to demonstrate our affection for Him.

Exploring the Text

Background to the reading

In reading these beautiful sentiments of St. Paul, it is essential to recall that he is writing from his imprisonment, probably in Rome (Phil 1:12-14), to the Christian community of Philippi, in northeastern Greece.  It was a city of some importance in the Roman province of Macedonia.   According to Acts 16:9-40, it was on St. Paul’s second missionary journey in circa 49 or 50 AD that he established the first Christian community in Europe at Philippi.

Despite St. Paul’s dire circumstances, His message is, if we truly have faith and trust in Jesus, then we should have no anxiety about earthly struggles because we belong to the eternal Christ.  Instead of focusing on all the bad in life, we should commit ourselves to prayer because the Lord is always near us and continually caring for us through His divine providence (Ps 119:151).  He is near to all who call upon Him (Ps 145:18).  Jesus listens to our prayers, and He is ready to give us what we need to overcome our fear and difficulties.  The only thing He requires of us is that we confide in Him and have confidence in Him to see to our needs.  St. Paul suggests that constant dialogue with God is the way to prevent anxiety, to express our gratitude to Him for all that is good, and to demonstrate our love for God.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Vatican II highlights of this passage

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  9 Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.  Then the God of peace will be with you.

The council of Vatican II highlighted the relevance of St. Paul’s teaching in this passage in several documents.  In its encyclical addressed to the ministry of priests, the council wrote concerning Paul’s advice in this passage: “Such a pursuit assumes goodness of heart, sincerity, strength, and constancy of mind, careful attention to justice, courtesy to others” (Vatican II, Presbyterorum ordinis, 3).  All these pursuits and thoughts are pleasing to God and will bear the fruit of righteousness deeds in the Kingdom of the Church.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
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SOURCE: Closer Day by Day: With Jesus and his Word
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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. — Matthew 21:34-35

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Gospel Reading

Matthew 21:33-43

Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

A call to conversion

GOSPEL—Another of the judgment parables immediately follows last week’s story of the two sons. These two parables are a call to conversion for both the Pharisees and the Chief Priests. In the parable, Jesus invites his audience to assess the characters in the story, and then applies the lesson of the story directly to his defiant audience. In passing judgment on the characters in the story, the religious leaders unwittingly pass judgment on themselves. Instead of welcoming Jesus as God’s messenger, they, like the tenants, plan to kill him. Jesus tells the parable not to condemn the religious leaders, but to call them to conversion. If they repent of their sins, they too, like the Gentiles, will be part of God’s kingdom.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

Who did the father’s will?

GOSPEL—It’s spring and we have another farming story. The farmer in our story is called a householder. He is the owner of a small block, which he hopes will become a flourishing vineyard.

He plants vines, plants a shelter belt which will also keep out wandering stock and builds a wine press. Because he also has a business in the city he employs tenants and then goes off on an overseas trip.

Matthew identifies the householder as God. This story conforms to the biblical message that all land belongs to God. God has invested in the work of others. God provides the capital but we tenants have to produce the fruit. It seems an ideal situation. The tenants are left free to develop their own gifts and their own creativity.

In the story the owner naturally wants to know how things are going. He also wants his share. Now comes the puzzling part- he sends his agents to check up on the tenants. These are abused and chased off. The owner tries again, the same thing happens.

By this time the listeners are feeling a little uncomfortable. The locale for the story was the temple where religious people gathered. They were asking themselves, “Who is he talking about?”

The story continued. The owner, now disturbed by what is happening tries again. He decides to send his son believing that the tenants will respect the heir. The worst happens and the son is killed. The wrath of the owner is great.

Jesus poses the question, “What will happen?” The listeners respond with the most likely answer for the times.

Has this parable anything to say to us?

As holders of the vision of God we have an awesome responsibility towards people and towards the earth. We see the fruits of a lack of concern all around us. We watch at politicians put short term profit before the sufferings of people. I was told only yesterday of children with high levels of lead in their systems from mining contamination. The pollution of the most valuable resource, water, goes on daily.

Wringing our hands or saying, “Someone should do something.” are not suitable responses from God’s stewards. The slogan, Think globally, act locally is a good place to start. We need to discern what contribution we can make. We have differing gifts. Some join organisations like Greenpeace, Amnesty International or Aid groups. Others volunteer for clean-up projects, monitoring wildlife, or fund raising, still others lobby councils and politicians.

We should not let denominational or religious difference confine our efforts. Check out the neighbourhood. There are probably groups with local or international outreach.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Commentary used with permission.

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Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau's Reflection

Jesus speaks of a new vineyard of farmers

GOSPEL—Jesus addressed a people who felt very secure that God had entrusted to them, and to them alone, responsibility for God’s promises in the world. The Jewish community had failed to produce the results that God had expected from them. By disobedience to God’s law, by worldly maneuverings,and by compromising alliances with foreign nations, they had abandoned the purity of their heritage and the purposes for which they had been established as a people belonging especially to God. Now, under military occupation at the hands of the Romans, many were seeking a religious renewal consisting of stricter adherence to ritual laws.Jesus would have them know that this is not the kind of harvest which the Lord intends. Knowing full well that the leaders of Judaism are plotting to have him killed, Jesus makes it clear that they will be killing the Son of God when they cry out for his crucifixion. His ultimate threat is that God will choose some outside the nation of Israel who, it is hoped, will be more faithful.

On another level, Matthew reconstructs this scene in terms of the struggle going on within the Jewish community50years after the death of Jesus. Most have not accepted Jesus as the messenger sent from God, a messenger who was in fact God’s very Son. There is a small Jewish community, those around Matthew, who have come to see that God wanted them to serve him according to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The larger part of the Jews have rejected Jesus and continue to do so. Already, God has been calling some Gentiles to become responsible for the promises also. Other tenant farmers are being summoned to become responsible. God places more hope in these others than in the ones who failed to produce the expected harvest.

Modern vineyards in the West are not as labor-intensive as the one described in the parable. Only in the Middle East are there still some vineyards cultivated with great difficulty on rocky hillsides, with the vines literally hanging on rocky supports which provide reserves of warmth into the coolness of the night; rocky cliffs that provide support to the vines so these will not touch the ground, sparse of soil but still able to rot out those leaves that touch the damp soil. The soil is not very abundant and must be carefully gathered around the roots of the individual vines if there is to be any growth at all. Vineyard farmers in such an environment have to love their work in order to put so much industry into it. The ultimate failure of this people is that they have been so greedy with God’s gifts. They have wanted all for their own benefit rather than for God’s glory. Stewardship has given way to a narrow sense of ownership and to selfishness.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Jesus’ parable in light of Laudato Si

GOSPEL—Jesus  commands our attention saying, “Hear another parable.” He spins the tale of a landowner with rebellious tenants. The more the owner seeks his due, the more vicious the tenants’ response. Some of the details of his story come directly from Isaiah 5. But Jesus reworks it for his own purposes.

Last week’s parable about the father and sons rained on the religious leaders’ showy parades. This week’s parable unleashed thunder and lightning. When Jesus challenged the leaders to write the end of the story, they condemned the tenants even though they realized that they were the ones implicated. Jesus softened their sentence by telling them, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

The situation was embarrassing for the leaders; the angrier they got, the more they were admitting that they understood that the evil tenants represented them and Jesus was the son. So, they immediately started plotting against Jesus. (See the concluding verses of Matthew 21:44-45.)

This parable has a history of tragic misinterpretation. It has been used as a pretext for condemning Jewish people while raising up the supposed Christians as God’s chosen ones. To deal with that sort of distortion of the Gospel, we should follow this rule of thumb: If one of Jesus’ parables does not call us to conversion, we haven’t yet understood it. Jesus used parables to shock people into conversion. They aren’t puzzles to be understood, but calls to action crafted to make us uncomfortable enough to change our ways.

Matthew placed this teaching time in the last days of Jesus’ life. Each event of that final week sharpened the lines between his disciples and those who chose to be his enemies. Jesus used this parable to retell salvation history. He reminded his hearers that God had sent prophetic messengers, to call the chosen people to task, to demand that they answer for the responsibility they had been given. Time and again, people with power had ignored God, rejecting and mistreating the emissaries. Jesus slipped another passion prediction into this parable, not so subtly presenting himself as God’s son — the last one sent by the owner of the vineyard. The angry listeners, as if on autopilot, plotted to be rid of him.

We know the rest of the story. But that was then. What about today?

When we read this parable in the light of our world situation and Laudato Si’, we find ourselves in the sandals of the tenants. Pope Francis reminds us that God has entrusted this Earth to us. Francis could have been writing a commentary on this parable when he said that our role in the world must be understood as one of stewardship (LS #116). Francis quotes Pope St. John Paul II saying: “Once the human being declares independence … and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature” (#117).

When we read Jesus’ parable of the wicked tenants as a commentary on human responsibility for our Earth and all its peoples, we find ourselves feeling less righteous and much more challenged. None of us can read Francis’ encyclical and feel vindicated. Whether as stewards of the Earth or spokespersons for the world and her most vulnerable creatures, we are called to continue to produce the fruits the Creator hopes to see from us.

Francis tells us: “As Christians, we are also called to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbors on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet” (#9). Being stewards of creation requires that we approach our Earth as a source of communion or hear the judgment: “It will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Commentaries

Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary
Commentary on Matthew 21:33-43
Douay-Rheims Bible  New Revised Standard
 Mt 21:33     Mt 21:33
Hear ye another parable. There was a man, an householder, who planted a vineyard and made a hedge round about it and dug in it a press and built a tower and let it out to husbandmen and went into a strange country.
“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.

A certain master of a family, &c. This master is God; the vineyard, the Jews; the husbandmen, the Jewish priests; the servants, God’s prophets, sent from time to time: the son, called (Mark 12: 6,) his only and most dear son, is our Savior Jesus Christ, whom they persecuted to death. (Witham)

By this parable, our Savior teaches the Jews that the providence of God had wonderfully watched over them from the beginning, that nothing had been omitted to promote their salvation, and that notwithstanding his prophets had been put to most cruel deaths, still the Almighty was not turned away from them, but had at length sent down his only Son, who should suffer at their hands the inexpressible ignominies and tortures of his cross and passion. (St. John Chrysostom, hom. lxix.)


Douay-Rheims Bible  New Revised Standard
 Mt 21:37      Mt 21:37
And last of all he sent to them his son, saying: They will reverence my son.
Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.’

They will reverence, &c. This is not said, as if God were ignorant what the Jews would do to his only begotten Son, since in this very place he declares that they would condemn him to death; but, to shew what they ought to have done, and what he had a right to expect from them. (Nicholas de Lyra.)


Douay-Rheims Bible  New Revised Standard
 Mt 21:    Mt 21
21:38
But the husbandmen seeing the son, said among themselves: This is the heir: come, let us kill him, and we shall have his inheritance.
21:38
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’

Heir. From this text, it appears that the princes of the Jews knew Jesus to be the Messias, and that it was only through envy and malice they were so blinded as not to acknowledge him for the Son of God. When, therefore, the apostle says, (1 Corinthians 2:8,) If they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; this, it is probable, must be understood of the common people, since we can hardly believe that the princes of the people were ignorant of it, as Christ had so repeatedly inculcated this truth, that he even says himself they had no excuse, and were only actuated by hatred against him and his Father. (St. John 15:22.) (Tirinus)

Inheritance, &c. It appears from St. John xi. that one of the motives why the Jews killed our Saviour was, lest if they let him live, all men should believe, and the Romans should come and destroy their nation. But the very means they took to secure their kingdom to themselves, hastened their downfall, and eventually caused their ruin; since in punishment of their crucifying Jesus Christ, their city and state were completely ruined under the Roman emperors Titus and Vespasian. (Nicholas de Lyra.)


Douay-Rheims Bible  New Revised Standard
 Mt 21      Mt 21
21:41
They say to him: He will bring those evil men to an evil end and let out his vineyard to other husbandmen that shall render him the fruit in due season.
21:41
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.”

He will bring those evil men to an evil end. This answer was made by some of them. Yet St. Luke 20:16, tells us, that others among them, (whom we may take to be the Scribes and Pharisees) cried out, God forbid; seeing well enough that this was a prediction of their future ruin. (Witham)

If we compare this text with St. Luke, it will appear that it was from the midst of the people that this answer was given, which was confirmed by Jesus Christ, and at which the high priests were so indignant, because they saw clearly it must fall upon themselves. (Bible de Vence)


Douay-Rheims Bible  New Revised Standard
 Mt 21      Mt 21
21:42
Jesus saith to them: Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? By the Lord this has been done; and it is wonderful in our eyes.
21:42
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’?

The head of the corner. By these words, (Psalm 117,) which the Jews themselves expounded of their Messias, Christ shewed them, that although they, who should have been the architects, had rejected him, yet he should be the chief corner-stone to unite the Jews and the Gentiles, converted into one Christian Church, militant on earth and triumphant in heaven. See Acts 4:11. (Witham)

St. Augustine remarks, that this parable was addressed not only to the opponents of Christ’s authority, but likewise to the people.


Douay-Rheims Bible  New Revised Standard
 Mt 21      Mt 21
21:43
Therefore I say to you that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof.
21:43
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 kingdom of God shall be taken from you. By this dreadful conclusion he tells them in plain terms, that they shall be forsaken, and punished for their blindness and obstinacy. (Witham)


SOURCE:  StudyLight.org
Sunday Readingscommentary

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The parable of the tenants of the vineyard

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus uses the same vineyard imagery as the First Reading and the Responsorial Psalm. In the Parable of the Tenants of the Vineyard, Jesus teaches about the leadership failures of Old Covenant Israel. In Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard and Jesus’ parable, there are blessings for obedience to God’s covenant, and there are divine judgments for covenant failures. In His parable, Jesus also foretells the transition to the leadership of the New Covenant Kingdom of His Church.

Exploring the Text

The landlord

The “landlord” of the vineyard is the same Greek word used for the “landlord” of the vineyard in Jesus’ “Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard” in Matthew 20:1-16.  The translation of the Greek word oikodespotes [oy-kod-es-pot’-ace] is “the head of the family,” or “master of the house.”

First-century AD Jews would have found the situation in the parable familiar. Landholders often rented out their property to tenant farmers who had to share a percentage of the profits from the harvest with the owner of the land. Jesus uses the parable as an allegory predicting His death at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders and their eventual destruction and loss of authority as God’s representatives to His people.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Repetition of threes

Notice the repetition of threes in the parable: three times the master sent out emissaries, and three times the tenants assaulted the master’s emissaries.  The first two times, the emissaries are the master’s servants, and the third time the master sends His son.  Also, notice it is the harvest season.Jesus used parables set in the season of the harvest in the Kingdom Parables in Matthew Chapter 13.  The “harvest” in Scripture represents the gathering of souls into the Church or at the Last Judgment (Mt 13:39b-43).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus' parable compared to Isaiah's reading

As noted in the First Reading, the vineyard symbolizes Israel in covenant with Yahweh.  Since the chief priests and elders did not recognize Jesus as a legitimate prophet of God, they missed the comparison between Jesus’ parable of the vineyard and the well-known parable of the vineyard told by prophet Isaiah in the First Reading (Is 5:1-7).  Some of the details in the parables are the same, each describing a well-tended vineyard with a hedge or wall to protect it from grazing animals, a watchtower as a lookout for marauding vandals, and a wine press for crushing the grapes to produce wine (see the chart below).

Jesus’ Parable of the Vineyard
Matthew 21:33-41
Isaiah’s Parable of the Vineyard
Isaiah 5:1-5
There was a landowner[master of the house] who planted a vineyard (vs. 33) My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside (Is 5:1)
put a hedge around it (vs. 33) take away its hedge (Is 5:5b)
dug a winepress in it (vs. 33) and hewed out a winepress (Is 5:2c)
and built a tower (vs. 33) Within it he built a watchtower (Is 5:2b)

Isaiah’s parable presents God’s judgment on an unrepentant people in verse 5: Now, I will let you know what I mean to do to my vineyard: Take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled!  And verse 7 identifies the vineyard: The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his cherished plant.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The symbol of the winepress

In Scripture, the winepress often represents the yielding of the best wine as a symbol of covenant obedience as in Numbers 18:27, and your contribution will be credited to you as if it were the grain from the threshing floor or new wine from the press.  However, the winepress could also symbolize the crushing of the wicked in divine judgment:

  • The winepress I have trodden alone, and of my people, there was no one with me.  I trod them in my anger, and trampled them down in my wrath … I trampled down the peoples in my anger, I crushed them in my wrath, and I let their blood run out upon the ground (Is 63:3-6, judgment on Edom).
  • Joy and jubilation are at an end in the fruit gardens of the land of Moab.  I drain the wine from the wine vats [wine press], the treader treads no more, the vintage shout is stilled (Jer 48:33, judgment against Moab).
  • All the mighty ones in my midst the Lord has cast away; he summoned an army against me to crush my young men; the LORD has trodden in the winepress virgin daughter Judah (Lam 1:15, judgment on Judah).
  • Rejoice not, O Israel, exult not like the nations!  For you have been unfaithful to your God, loving a harlot’s hire upon every threshing floor.  Threshing floor and wine press shall not nourish them; the new wine shall fail them (Hos 9:2, judgment on Israel).

The Book of Revelation uses the same “winepress” judgment imagery:

  • So the angel swung his sickle over the earth and cut the earth’s vintage.  He threw it into the great winepress of God’s fury.  The winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood poured out of the winepress to the height of a horse’s bridle for two hundred miles (Rev 14:19-20).
  • Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the nations.  He will rule them with an iron rod, and he himself will tread out in the winepress the wine of the fury and wrath of God the almighty (Rev 19:15).
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
A proper understanding of the parables

To understand both parables, it is essential to identify who owned the land of Israel.  The Promised Land of Israel belonged to God, and the children of Israel were His tenants.  They could never sell the land; they could only lease it: The land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine, and you are but aliens who have become my tenants (Lev 25:23).  With this knowledge, it is easier to understand the symbolism of the parable and answer the questions: Who is the master-of-the-house who owns the vineyard?  What do the vineyard, the hedge, the watchtower, and the winepress represent?  Who are the tenants in charge of the harvest?  Who are the master’s two groups of servants who were beaten and killed, and who is the son the tenants killed?

  1. God is the Master of the house (the Church).
  2. The vineyard is the covenant people of Israel.
  3. The hedge and the watchtower represent God’s protection over His faithful covenant people.
  4. The winepress produces the wine of the covenant that is the fruit of the harvest.  The good wine is a symbol of covenant union, but rebellion only yields the “wine of God’s wrath” in judgment.
  5. The tenants in charge of the harvest are the Old Covenant religious authorities.
  6. The Master’s servants are the Old Testament prophets (first set) and Jesus’ disciples (second set)*
  7. Jesus is the Master’s Son who they killed.

*Jesus warned His disciples of the persecution they will face (Mt 10:16-18), and He will warn them again in His homily at the Last Supper (Jn 16:1-4).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The religious leader's response

Jesus asked the religious leaders: 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.'”

The religious leaders’ response in verse 41 is ironic. In their answer, they pronounced their own judgment, and the result was God gave their authority over the “vineyard/the Church of God’s covenant people” to “other tenants.”   They will now have authority over the Master’s vineyard in place of the tenants who killed the Master’s son are the Christians of the new Israel.  The men who oppose Jesus will lose their positions as the authoritative hierarchy of God’s house (His Church).  St. Peter and the Apostles, who will become the leaders of the New Covenant Church, will receive the authority of God to govern His covenant people of the “new Israel” in the name of Jesus Christ (see Mt 16:18-19; 18:18; Jn 20:21-23, CCC 788).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Each of the parables end in violence

Notice that Isaiah’s parable and Jesus’ parable both end in violence:

  • The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his cherished plant; He looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! For justice, but hark, the outcry! (Is 5:7).
  • 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 (Mt 21:38-39).

Both parables end in the judgment of Old Covenant Israel, but Jesus also turns this vineyard parable into a prophecy of His Passion and death.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus' teaching of the meaning of the parable

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.

Jesus challenges the chief priests and Pharisees again on their knowledge of the Scriptures, saying, Did you never read in the Scriptures?“He challenged His opponents this way previously (Mt 12:3, 5; 21:16) and will do so again (Mt 22:31), which must have made them furious since they saw themselves as the sole proprietors of the deposit of sacred knowledge. The Old Testament passage Jesus quotes in verse 42 is from Psalm 118:22 in the Greek Septuagint translation.

The religious leaders do not at first understand Jesus’ parable.  However, when Jesus adds additional teaching, the meaning is suddenly and disturbingly clear to them.  Notice how Jesus’ quote from Psalms 118:22-23 reveals His true identity.  Psalms 118:22 is the verse of the Messianic Psalms just before the verse quoted by the crowds as He rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (see Mt 21:9 quoting Ps 22-23).  The “builders” refers to the religious leaders of the Sinai Covenant (Peter will refer to them this way in Acts 4:11).  Jesus’ reference to this psalm is related to Ezekiel 34:1-10 and His vineyard parable by identifying the chief priests and elders in three ways.  Jesus tells them that He is the cornerstone that the builders (the religious authorities) reject in Psalms 118:22-23, a reference to His Passion, and He condemns them as:

  1. the false builders of Psalms 118:22
  2. the failed shepherds the prophet Ezekiel condemned in Ezekiel 34:1-10
  3. the wicked tenants of His parable
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Application of the parable for us today

The Vicar of Christ (the Pope), bishops and priests of the ministerial priesthood, and baptized Christians of the priesthood of the faithful are those Jesus anointed as the people of His New Covenant Kingdom. As the tenants of Christ’s Vineyard of the Church, we need to take care that we don’t let ourselves become overgrown with the thorns and briers of worldly anxiety that quench the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We need to fill our hearts and minds with Jesus Christ so we can produce the fruit of righteous deeds for His New Covenant Kingdom of the Church. And, we need to rejoice in the nearness of our Lord and Savior in the “best wine,” the gift of the life of Christ in the Eucharist.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE):
A line of soldiers (at right) trek through a muddy, shelled, and barren landscape, while searchlights in the distance scan the evening sky. The title of this A.Y. Jackson painting suggests that the area had once been heavily wooded, a powerful comment on the war's devastation of the natural landscape.
SOURCE: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A.Y._Jackson_-_A_Copse,_Evening,_1918.jpg

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The Catena Aurea

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.

List of Church Fathers

Here are some of the Church Fathers that Aquinas used in his commentary:

Third Century

  • Origen  – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian  – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius  – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius  – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary  – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose  – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome  – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius  – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine  – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom  – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine  – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus  – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea  – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium  – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea  – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus  – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium  – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria  – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin  – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian)  – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus  – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great”  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra  – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great  – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius  – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch  – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus  – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus  – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita  (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great  – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore  – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople)  – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh)  (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch)  – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus  – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius  – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.)  – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene  – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin  – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt)  – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople)  – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus  – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre)  – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus  – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact  – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm  – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus  – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc)  – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria
Click on banner above to toggle an annotated list of the Church Fathers that Aquinas compiled in his multi-volume commentary.

Matthew 21:33-44

TOGGLE BIBLE VERSES

33. Hear another parable: There was a certain housholder, which planted a vineyard, aud hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:

34. And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.

35. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.

36. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.

37. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.

38. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.

39. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.

40. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?

41. They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.

42. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

43. Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you. and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

44. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxviii.) The design of this further parable is to shew that their guilt was heinous, and unworthy to be forgiven.

ORIGEN. The householder is God, who in some parables is represented as a man. As it were a father condescending to the infant lisp of his little child, in order to instruct him.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. He is called man, by title, not by nature; in a kind of likeness, not in verity. For the Son knowing that by occasion of His human name He himself should be blasphemed as though he were mere man, spoke therefore of the Invisible God the Father as man; He who by nature is Lord of Angels and men, but by goodness their Father.

JEROME. He hath planted a vine of which Isaiah speaks, The vine of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel. (Isa. 5:7.) And hedged it round about; i. e. either the wall of the city, or the guardianship of Angels.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Or, by the hedge understand the protection of the holy fathers, who were set as a wall round the people of Israel.

ORIGEN. Or, the hedge which God set round his people was His own Providence; and the winepress was the place of offerings.

JEROME. A winepress, that is to say, An altar; or those winepresses after which the three Psalms, the 8th, the 80th, and the 83d are entitleda, that is to say, the martyrs.

HILARY. Or, He set forth the Prophets as it were winepresses, into which an abundant measure of the Holy Spirit, as of new wine, might flow in a teeming stream.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Or, the winepress is the word of God, which tortures man when it contradicts his fleshly nature.

JEROME. And built a tower therein, that is, the Temple, of which it is said by Micah, And thou, O cloudy tower of the daughter of Sion. (Mic. 4:8.)

HILARY. Or, The tower is the eminence of the Law, which ascended from earth to heaven, and from which, as from a watch-tower, the coming of Christ might be spied. And let it out to husbandmen.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. When, that is, Priests and Levites were constituted by the Law, and undertook the direction of the people. And as an husbandman, though he offer to his Lord of his own stock, does not please him so much as by giving him the fruit of his own vineyard; so the Priest does not so much please God by his own righteousness, as by teaching the people of God holiness; for his own righteousness is but one, but that of the people manifold. And went into a far country.

JEROME. Not a change of place, for God, by whom all things are filled, cannot be absent from any place; but He seems to be absent from the vineyard, that He may leave the vine-dressers a freedom of acting.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or, it applies to His long-suffering, in that He did not always bring down immediate punishment on their sins.

ORIGEN. Or, because God who had been with them in the cloud by day, and in the pillar of fire by night, (Exod. 13:21.) never after shewed Himself to them in like manner. In Isaiah (Is. 5:7.) the people of the Jews is called the vineyard, and the threats of the householder are against the vineyard; but in the Gospel not the vineyard but the husbandmen are blamed. For perchance in the Gospel the vineyard is the kingdom of God, that is, the doctrine which is contained in holy Scripture; and a man’s blameless life is the fruit of the vineyard. And the letter of Scripture is the hedge set round the vineyard, that the fruits which are hid in it should not be seen by those who are without. The depth of the oracles of God is the winepress of the vineyard, into which such as have profited in the oracles of God pour out their studies like fruit. The tower built therein is the word concerning God Himself, and concerning Christ’s dispensations. This vineyard He committed to husbandmen, that is, to the people that was before us, both priests and laity, and went into a far country, by His departure giving opportunity to the husbandmen. The time of the vintage drawing near may be taken of individuals, and of nations. The first season of life is in infancy, when the vineyard has nought to shew, but that it has in it the vital power. As soon as it comes to be able to speak, then is the time of putting forth buds. And as the child’s soul progresses, so also does the vineyard, that is, the word of God; and after such progress the vineyard brings forth the ripe fruit of love, joy, peace, and the like. Moreover to the nation who received the Law by Moses, the time of fruit draweth near.

RABANUS. The season of fruit, He says, not of rent-paying, because this stiff-necked nation brings forth no fruit.

CHRYSOSTOM. (non occ. ap. Chrys.) He calls the Prophets servants, who as the Lord’s Priests offer the fruits of the people, and the proofs of their obedience in their works. But they shewed their wickedness not only in refusing the fruits, but in having indignation against those that come to them, as it follows, And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.

JEROME. Beat them, as Jeremiah, killed them, as Isaiah, stoned them, as Naboth and Zacharias, whom they slew between the temple and the altar.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. At each step of their wickedness the mercy of God was increased, and at each step of the Divine mercy the wickedness of the Jews increased; thus there was a strife between human wickedness and Divine goodness.

HILARY. These more than the first who were sent, denote that time, when, after the preaching of single Prophets, a great number was sent forth together.

RABANUS. Or, the first servants who were sent were the Lawgiver Moses himself, and Aaron the first Priest of God; whom, having beaten them with the scourge of their tongue, they sent away empty; by the other servants understand the company of the Prophets.

HILARY. By the Son sent at last, is denoted the advent of our Lord.

CHRYSOSTOM. Wherefore then did He not send Him immediately? That from what they had done to the others they might accuse themselves, and putting away their madness they might reverence His Son when He came.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. He sent Him not as the bearer of a sentence of punishment against the guilty, but of an offer of repentance; He sent Him to put them to shame, not to punish them.

JEROME. But when He says, They will reverence my Son, He does not speak as in ignorance. For what is there that this householder (by whom in this place God is intended) knows not? But God is thus spoken of as being uncertain, in order that free-will may be reserved for man.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or He speaks as declaring what ought to be; they ought to reverence Him; thus shewing that their sin was great, and void of all excuse.

ORIGEN. Or we may suppose this fulfilled in the case of those Jews who, knowing Christ, believed in Him. But what follows, But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir, come let us kill him, and let us seize on the inheritance, was fulfilled in those who saw Christ, and knew Him to be the Son of God, yet crucified Him.

JEROME. Let us enquire of Arrius and Eunomius. See here the Father is said not to know somewhat. Whatever answer they make for the Father, let them understand the same of the Son, when He says that He knows not the day of the consummation of all things. (Mat. 22:36.)

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. But some say, that it was after His incarnation, that Christ was called a Son in right of His baptism like the other saints, whom the Lord refutes by this place, saying, I will send my Son. Therefore when He thus meditated sending His Son after the Prophets, He must have been already His Son. Further, if He had been His Son in the same way as all the saints to whom the word of God was sent, He ought to have called the Prophets also His sons, as He calls Christ, or to call Christ His servant, as He calls the Prophets.

RABANUS. By what they say, This is the Son, He manifestly proves that the rulers of the Jews crucified the Son of God, not through ignorance, but through jealousy. For they understood that it was He to whom the Father speaks by the Prophet, Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance (Ps. 2:8.) The inheritance given to the Son is the holy Church; an inheritance not left Him by His Father when dying, but wonderfully purchased by His own death.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. After His entry into the Temple, and having cast out those who sold the animals for the sacrifices, then they took counsel to kill Him, Come, let us kill him. For they reasoned among themselves, It will happen that the people hereby shall disuse the practice of sacrificing, which pertains to our gain, and shall be content to offer the sacrifice of righteousness, which pertains to the glory of God; and so the nation shall no more be our possession, but shall become God’s. But if we shall kill Him, then there being none to seek the fruit of righteousness from the people, the practice of offering sacrifice shall continue, and so this people shall become our possession; as it follows, And the inheritance shall be ours. These are the usual thoughts of all worldly Priests, who take no thought how the people shall live without sin, but look to how much is offered in the Church, and esteem that the profit of their ministry.

RABANUS. Or, The Jews endeavoured by putting Him to death to seize upon the inheritance, when they strove to overthrow the faith which is through Him, and to substitute their own righteousness which is by the Law, and therewith to imbue the Gentiles. It follows, And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.

HILARY. Christ was cast out of Jerusalem, as out of the vineyard, to His sentence of punishment.

ORIGEN. Or, what He says, And cast him out of the vineyard, seems to me to be this; As far as they were concerned they judged Him a stranger both to the vineyard, and the husbandmen. When therefore the Lord of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?

JEROME. The Lord asks them not as though He did not know what they would answer, but that they might be condemned by their own answer.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. That their answer is true, comes not of any righteous judgment in them, but from the case itself; truth constrained them.

ORIGEN. Like Caiaphas (John 11:49) so did they, not from themselves, prophesy against themselves, that the oracles of God were to he taken from them, and given to the Gentiles, who could bring forth fruit in due season.

GLOSS. (ord.) Or, the Lord whom they killed, came immediately rising from the dead, and brought to an evil end those wicked husbandmen, and gave up His vineyard to other husbandmen, that is, to the Apostles.

AUGUSTINE. (de Cons. Ev. ii. 70.) Mark does not give this as their answer, but relates that the Lord after His question put to them, made this answer to Himself. But it may be easily explained, that their words are subjoined in such a way as to shew that they spoke them, without putting in ‘And they answered.’ Or this answer is attributed to the Lord, because, what they said being true, might well be said to have been spoken by Him who is truth.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or there is no contradiction, because both are right; they first made answer in these words, and then the Lord repeated them.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) This troubles us more, how it is that Luke not only does not relate this to have been their answer, but attributes to them a contrary answer. His words are, And when they heard it they said, God forbid. (Luke 20:16.) The only way that remains for understanding this is, therefore, that of the listening multitudes some answered as Matthew relates, and some as Luke. And let it perplex no one that Matthew says that the Chief Priests and elders of the people came to the Lord, and that he connects the whole of this discourse in one down to this parable of the vineyard, without interposing any other speaker. For it may be supposed that He spoke all these things with the Chief Priests, but that Matthew for brevity’s sake omitted what Luke mentions, namely, that this parable was spoken not to those only who asked Him concerning His authority, but to the populace, among whom were some who said, He shall destroy them, and give the vineyard to others. And at the same time this saying is rightly thought to have been the Lord’s, either for its truth, or for the unity of His members with their head. And there were also those who said, God forbid, those namely, who perceived that He spoke this parable against them.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Otherwise: Luke has given the answer of their lips, Matthew that of their hearts. For some made answer openly contradicting Him, and saying, God forbid, but their consciences took it up with He shall miserably destroy these wicked men. For so when a man is detected in any wickedness, he excuses himself in words, but his conscience within pleads guilty.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or otherwise: the Lord proposed this parable to them with this intent, that not understanding it they should give sentence against themselves; as was done by Nathan to David. Again, when they perceived the meaning of the things that had been said against them, they said, God forbid.

RABANUS. Morally; a vineyard has been let out to each of us to dress, when the mystery of baptism was given us, to be cultivated by action. Servants one, two, and three are sent us when Law, Psalm, and Prophecy are read, after whose instructions we are to work well. He that is sent is beaten and cast out when the word is contemned, or, which is worse, is blasphemed. He kills (as far as in him lies) the heir, who tramples under foot the Son, and does despite to the Spirit of grace. The wicked husbandman is destroyed, and the vineyard is given to another, when the gift of grace which the proud has contemned is given to the lowly.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. When they seemed discontent, He brings forward Scripture testimony; as much as to say, If ye understood not My parable, at least acknowledge this Scripture.

JEROME. The same things are treated under various figures; whom above He called labourers and husbandmen, He now calls builders.

CHRYSOSTOM. Christ is the stone, the builders are the Jewish teachers who rejected Christ, saying, This man is not of God. (John 9:16.)

RABANUS. But despite of their displeasure, the same stone furnished the head stone of the corner, for out of both nations He has joined by faith in Him as many as He would.

HILARY. He is become the head of the corner, because He is the union of both sides between the Law and the Gentiles.

CHRYSOSTOM. And that they might know that nothing that had been done was against God’s will, He adds, It is the Lord’s doing.

ORIGEN. That is, the stone is the gift of God to the whole building, and is wonderful in our eyes, who can discern it with the eyes of the mind.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. As much as to say, How do ye not understand in what building that stone is to be set, not in yours, seeing it is rejected, but in another; but if the building is to be other, your building will be rejected.

ORIGEN. By the kingdom of God, He means the mysteries of the kingdom of God, that is, the divine Scriptures, which the Lord committed, first to that former people who had the oracles of God, but secondly to the Gentiles who brought forth fruit. For the word of God is given to none but to him who brings fruit thereof, and the kingdom of God is given to none in whom sin reigns. Whence came it then that it was given to them from whom it was afterwards taken away? Remember that whatever is given is given of free gift. To whom then He let out the vineyard, He let it out not as to elect already and believing; but to whom He gave it, He gave it with a sentence of election.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Christ is called A Stone, not only because of His strength, but because He mightily crushes His enemies; whence it follows, And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, and on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder.

JEROME. Whoso sinneth, yet believeth on Him, falls indeed upon a stone and is broken, yet is not altogether crushed, but is preserved to salvation through endurance. But on whomsoever it shall fall, that is, whomsoever this stone shall itself assault, and whosoever shall utterly deny Christ, it shall so crush him, that not a bone of him shall be left in which a drop of water could be taken up.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. It is one thing to be broken, and another to be ground to powder. Of what is broken there remains something; but what is ground to powder is as it were converted into dust. And what falls upon a stone is not broken by any power of the stone, but because it fell heavily, either by reason of its weight, or of its fall from a great height. So a Christian in sinning, perishes, but not to the utmost that Christ can destroy; but only so far as he destroys himself, either by the greatness of his sin, or by his exalted rank. But the unbelievers perish to the utmost that Christ can destroy them.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or, He here points out their twofold destruction; first in their stumbling and being offended at Him, signified in that, Whosoever shall fall upon this stone; the other in the captivity that should come upon them, signified by that, But upon whomsoever it shall fall.

AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. Ev. i. 30.) Or, Those that fall upon Him, are those that despise and afflict Him. These do not perish utterly, but are broken so that they walk not upright. But upon these He shall fall when He shall come from above in judgment with a punishment of destruction, and thence He says, Shall grind them to powder, because the wicked are like the dust which the wind scattereth abroad on the face of the earth. (Ps. 1:4.).

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000Commentary in public domain.

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