2nd Week of Lent
1st Reading: Gen 37:3-4, 12-13a, 17b-28a
Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he had made him a long tunic. When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him. One day, when his brothers had gone to pasture their father’s flocks at Shechem, Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers, you know, are tending our flocks at Shechem. Get ready; I will send you to them.” So Joseph went after his brothers and caught up with them in Dothan. They noticed him from a distance, and before he came up to them, they plotted to kill him. They said to one another: Here comes that master dreamer! Come on, let us kill him and throw him into one of the cisterns here; we could say that a wild beast devoured him. We shall then see what comes of his dreams.” When Reuben heard this, he tried to save him from their hands, saying, “We must not take his life. Instead of shedding blood,” he continued, “just throw him into that cistern there in the desert; but do not kill him outright.” His purpose was to rescue him from their hands and return him to his father. So when Joseph came up to them, they stripped him of the long tunic he had on; then they took him and threw him into the cistern, which was empty and dry. They then sat down to their meal. Looking up, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, their camels laden with gum, balm and resin to be taken down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers: “What is to be gained by killing our brother and concealing his blood? Rather, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites, instead of doing away with him ourselves. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh.” His brothers agreed. They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver.
Gospel Mt 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.
Privilege comes with responsibility: This parable presents the privileged position of the religious leaders – the chief priests and Pharisees – who were like God’s stewards in looking after the people of God. They used their privileged position to go for the head of the last messenger – the Son of God himself – Jesus Christ. They fell from grace to grass. Similarly, God entrusts his work to us as workers in his vineyard. He even equips us with tools and skills to get the job done. He waits patiently as we fail, in the hope that we shall wake up, learn and produce. Yet in freedom, we sometimes rebel and deliberately disobey him by sinning against him. When the day of reckoning comes, we are required to account for each of our actions. He asks us what we have done with what he entrusted to us. Alas if we are found useless! Do we at times feel that our returns are so insignificant comoared to the gifts given to us? Remember, each privilege has a responsibility.
PRAYER: Lord, help us not to abuse the privileges you have given us but to wisely utilize your gifts to us for the building up of your Kingdom here on earth. Amen!
Dig deep into your resources: A stern warning is given out. “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you”, just as power was taken away from the other sons of Jacob and given to Joseph. People who act in high-handedness. Only attend to their whims and fancies will have to pay heavily. We are invited to be God-fearing and do according to God’s Will. This is a call to produce fruits for the Kingdom of God (Mt 21:43). We must ask ourselves today, “How deeply do we reflect the Christian message and how closely do we live the Christian values?” If peace and care for the human needs do not seem important to us, then we fail Christ. We need to make ourselves a society with a strong sense of ethics and with a concern for human condition. Let us turn over a new leaf to make it better for every one of us.
Prayer: Good God, make us earnest messengers of your Kingdom.
RESPONDING TO GOD’S ACTION: We are in the image of God. God constantly works within us, moving us from within us towards himself. We call this action of God, grace! God’s desire for us is that we respond to his action within us. That grace is like the vineyard. We need to till it, care for it, and offer a response to God. The fulfilment and happiness in our own life consists in this. If we do not respond, God will not be cruel to us, but rather, we shall become victims of our own choices. God continues to offer us reminders and signposts. He even sends his own Son to us! There is no entitlement that since we are Catholics or Christians, things will automatically work out the way we want. No! We need to exercise our free will to respond to God in a way that is in line with the fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faith, modesty, self-control, and chastity.
EFFECTS OF COMPLACENCY: Complacency makes us to take things for granted and eventually lose focus. Having been tenants for so long, the tenants had a certain sense of entitlement. They forgot that they had come in as tenants, with an obligation to give the landowner his share of the harvest. They had lost mission and vision as tenants. The Pharisees and the chief priests realized that the parable was meant for them, at the same time it is also meant for our political and religious leaders. As leaders we have an obligation to deliver the pledges we made during campaigns. Jesus challenges their type of leadership, challenging them to be more open-minded and more considerate of the people they were leading. Instead of living God’s compassionate mercy, they burdened the people with endless rules and practices. This is a call to conversion that we all receive.