The Gospel according to John (Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46)
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?
Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them. And although they were attempting to arrest him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.
Opening Prayer: Lord, help me to pray well to overcome my selfishness. Instead of thinking of myself and my own comfort, enjoyment, and entertainment, help me to think first of the needs of others and especially how I might help them take a step closer to you today.
Encountering Christ: We have all heard OR used the saying” Me, Myself and I”. That term puts us in a position of making ourselves better than others because we are saying in essence, that we are better than others. Simply put, we are taking a selfish approach to looking at our relationship with God and others. Me first.
How often have you taken the stance – and tell God, “I’m just too tired today to get up and go to mass” OR “I just can’t do that for so and so”. We become complacent eventually and find ourselves slowly – but steadily – drifting away from the “PRIZE”….our relationship with God and our destiny to be in Heaven one day. We tend to step away from tending the vineyard of our own lives and their relationships.
Fortunately, the Church has provided us with the annual Lenten Season in order to re-focus our lives and behaviors. We are called to move away from “me first” and move to a collaborative relationship with God. He leads and we follow along. Think about it…. God has been at this whole “leading” thing a lot longer than we have. He has a lot more experience than we do PLUS he already knows where we are going on our life’s journey! We just need to realize that with God our own potential is almost limitless.
But here is the real challenge before us today. Just like the Chief Priests and the Pharisees, in this upside down world we are living in today, it is easy to become cynical and selfish – not wanting to let go of our own comfort zone, whatever you define that as.
The Pharisees admitted that they knew Jesus was talking about them and their behavior AND they still could not find it within themselves to alter their lifestyles and begin to put God first AND relationships second. In fact, the parable describes the killing of the owner’s son as a greed driven response. So the question we should be asking ourselves is do we put greed and other failings first in our lives OR do we have a way to keep those tendencies in check in our day-to-day living.
Our Lenten Journey should be about putting ourselves squarely in front of the mirror AND we should be asking ourselves how can I make myself a better person and how do I increase my love for God and those around me. We have to spend more time in prayer to find those answers and that is exactly what Lent is about!
Tend to your own internal vineyard. Inspect your inner self and prune what needs pruning and feed what needs feeding. In the end you will have a better and healthier vineyard that will produce a bountiful harvest at the end of Lent. Remember you can liken this experience to feeding your lawn – It only takes a couple short weeks to see a marked result.
Spend some extra time this Lent tending the field of your life. Enjoy the closeness of God during this special time and when Easter comes you are going to be amazed at how you have bloomed!
Closing Prayer: Lord, so often I forget about you and end up focused on my own goals and desires. Yet you put me here to cooperate with you in your saving mission. You gave me the tools I need to fulfill this mission. Help me to remember this truth throughout my day, to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks me for a reason for my hope”
Action for the Day: Find a place of quiet in your favorite chair, room, yard, wherever you find peace and quiet. Set your cell phone or watch or timer for just 10 minutes. During that time place this question before God… “Lord, what selfish tendency of mine is keeping me at a distance from You. How can I be more productive in your world, my vineyard. Help me see more clearly what needs pruning in my life.”
That quick question should only take a minute or two and the other eight minutes are to listen to God speak! Listen carefully!
Where are you in this field?