READ: MATTHEW 21:33-43, 45-46
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
"Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it,
dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them,
thinking, 'They will respect my son.'
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
'This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.'
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?"
They answered him,
"He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times."
Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?
Therefore, I say to you,
the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit."
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,
they knew that he was speaking about them.
And although they were attempting to arrest him,
they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.
Our Gospel passage today is quite graphic and violent and intense. But sometimes Jesus had to speak in such a way to convict the hearts of the religious leaders. And sometimes he has to speak in such a way to reach the deep places of our hearts. Why did the tenants beat, kill, and stone the servants? Why did they eventually kill the son? Pope Benedict XVI gives us the answer in a homily he gave in 2005 when he said this: "The vine produces good grapes, but the tenants keep them for themselves. They are not willing to hand them over to the owner of the vineyard. They beat and kill his messengers and kill his son. Their motive is simple: they themselves want to become owners; they take possession of what does not belong to them."
And aren't we like this sometimes? How often do we try to be the owners--not of vineyards--but of our very lives? We go about our days balancing busy schedules, dealing with difficult situations, working to pay the bills, checking off our to-do list, all with the mentality that it's all up to me. We operate under the conviction that we have to have it all together, that we have to be the ones with solutions to every problem, that we have to plan our futures perfectly. We strive to be in complete control.
But all of that is an illusion. Only God's control is complete control. And so He asks us to submit our freedom, our control, our lives to Him. He asks us to trust in His goodness and providence. But this trust only comes from a relationship with Him. It only comes by remembering who it is that we are giving up control to.
In her book, Opening Your Heart, Lisa Brennickmeyer writes, "Submit your personal freedom. That’s a pretty bold thing to ask, especially when we humans really like to be the ones in control. We’d be crazy to hand over our freedom to someone weak, someone we didn’t trust, someone unreliable, someone selfish, someone driven by ego. But what would it feel like to submit personal freedom to someone who had proven Himself to be utterly trustworthy, who promised to never leave us, who was completely selfless to the point of death, whose humility was incomparable, and who was the supreme power in the universe? What if we weren’t meant to bear the weight and pressure of trying to stay in control all the time? What if there was a safe place to let down our guards? What if there was someone who was just waiting to guide us to the best place to experience joy and fulfillment?"
There is someone that wants to do just that. Today, let's be bold enough to submit ourselves to Him.
On whom do you rely?
Have you experienced the "pressure of trying to stay in control all the time"?
What are the situations that you are trying to control, the situations in which you are relying on yourself instead of God?
What would it look like to submit your personal freedom to Jesus?
How can you invest more in your relationship with Jesus so as to learn to trust Him more?
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
When the LORD called down a famine on the land
and ruined the crop that sustained them,
He sent a man before them,
Joseph, sold as a slave.
They had weighed him down with fetters,
and he was bound with chains,
Till his prediction came to pass
and the word of the LORD proved him true.
The king sent and released him,
the ruler of the peoples set him free.
He made him lord of his house
and ruler of all his possessions.
R. Remember the marvels the Lord has done.
What relationship or situation will you hand over to God in prayer today?
For more on this Gospel passage, listen to this homily by Bishop Robert Barron: