The themes of rejection and acceptance are present in today’s readings. In the Gospel, Matthew uses the parable of the wicked tenants to criticize the chief priests and Pharisees for their rejection of Jesus and the message of the Gospel. The parable builds on imagery and ideas heard in the first reading, from Isaiah, adding allegorical elements representing the kingdom of God. In the second reading, from Philippians, Paul reminds the community to accept God’s comfort and presence in their lives.
The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:7)
How can prayer help you during times of uncertainty?
Are you open to hearing ideas that are different from your own?
How can reading Scripture foster a relationship with God and with your community?
Today’s Gospel stops at Mt 21:43, but the end of the chapter sheds light on the tension between Jesus and the audience to whom he addresses this parable: “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” (Mt 21:45-46).
These leaders are likened to the tenants in the parable. The landowner (God) gives the tenants (leaders) control over the vineyard (Israel). When the landowner sends multiple servants (prophets) to collect the harvest, the tenants reject and kill them. Finally, expecting the tenants to accept the landowner’s son (Jesus), the tenants reject and kill him too.
Matthew ends the parable with Jesus asking his audience to recall Ps 118:22-23: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes.” This psalm is invoked to affirm that although many reject him, Jesus is the foundation of the kingdom of God. Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7 also quote Psalm 118 and make a similar comparison, using this rejected-stone image to explain that even when his message meets with opposition, Jesus is fulfilling God’s plan. The declarations that many reject Jesus are meant to inspire people to openly accept Jesus and the Gospel.
The second reading, from Philippians, addresses an early Christian community and reminds them to look to God for comfort, especially during times of uncertainty. Paul exhorts the Philippians to pray, offering petitions and thanksgiving to God. They are instructed to seek the peace of God, which “surpasses all understanding.” Paul reminds them to be attuned to their world, looking for things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious and excellent. Paul insists that these qualities should be sought and praised.
During a time of much disagreement and uncertainty, today’s readings offer a few reminders. Just as Jesus criticizes leaders of his day and meets with opposition, so too should we be willing to speak up against injustice, even if people in power resist, reject or persecute us for proclaiming the kingdom. Moreover, as Paul suggests, we should pray for guidance and comfort from God and consistently seek qualities and actions that are consistent with the Gospel.