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  • St. John's Church

Sunday, October 4 Readings


God Speaks to Families Through the Sunday Readings

First Reading

Isaiah 5:1-7

The Lord compares the house of Israel to a vineyard.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 80:9,12-16,19-20

The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel.

Second Reading

Philippians 4:6-9

Paul encourages the Philippians to stay faithful to the teaching they received from Him.

Gospel Reading

Matthew 21:33-43

Jesus tells the parable about the wicked tenants.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today's Gospel follows directly after last Sunday's Gospel in which Jesus was questioned by Jewish religious leaders about the source of His teaching authority. After refusing to answer their questions, Jesus tells the parable of the two sons and then criticizes the priests and elders for their lack of belief in John the Baptist.

In today's Gospel, Jesus once again speaks to the priests and elders with a parable. In this parable, the landowner leases his vineyard to tenants and sends his servants to collect the portion of the harvest that the tenants owe to him. Several times the servants are sent to collect payment, and each time they are beaten and killed by the tenants. Finally, the landowner sends his son to collect his rent. The tenants, believing that they will inherit the vineyard if the landowner dies without an heir, plot together and kill the land-owner's son.

After telling the parable, Jesus questions the chief priests and elders about what the landowner will do to the wicked tenants. They all agree that the landowner will kill the wicked tenants and give the land to new tenants who will pay the rent.

In telling the parable, Jesus is clearly drawing upon Isaiah 5:1-7, which is today's first reading and one that the priests and elders would have known well. Jesus doesn't, therefore, have to explain the sym-bolism of the parable; the Pharisees would have understood that the vineyard represented Israel, the land-owner represented God, the servants represented the prophets and the bad tenants represented the reli-gious leaders. Yet Jesus nonetheless explains the meaning of the parable for His audience: the Kingdom of God will be taken from the unbelieving and given to the faithful. The chief priests and elders have condemned themselves with their answer to Jesus' question.

Today's Gospel has a parallel in Mark 12:1-12. There are some notable differences, however. In Matthew's version, the religious leaders condemn themselves; in Mark's Gospel, Jesus answers His own question. Matthew names the religious leaders as Pharisees and chief priests. Clearly this Gospel shows the tension that was mounting between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders who thought that His message was dangerous. Matthew's Gospel was written about 70 years after Jesus' death and reflects the conflicts and tensions found in the Christian community for whom Matthew was writing. Many biblical scholars believe that the tension between Matthew's community and their Jewish neighbors can also be heard in today's reading.

This Gospel reminds us of the importance of listening to God's word. God speaks to us in many ways—through Scripture, through our Church tradition, in our Church's teaching, and through modern-day prophets. Are we attentive and receptive to God's word to us through these messengers?

Family Connection

In an ideal household, family members know the rules and follow them consistently. Even the most conscientious among us, however, sometimes needs to be reminded of the rules and their importance. How we respond to such correction reveals our true character. In today's Gospel Jesus exposes the religious leaders for their failure to heed God's messengers. It is an opportunity for us to consider how we respond to those who are God's messengers today, calling us to correct our ways and return to the way of the Lord.

As you gather as a family, talk about some of the most important rules of your household. Consider how consistently family members follow these rules. How are family members reminded when rules are not being followed? How do they respond? In today's Gospel Jesus corrects the religious leaders through a parable telling them that they have not heeded God's messengers. Read Matthew 21:33-43. What are some of God's rules that we must follow? How do we respond to God's messengers today? Pray together as a family that you will heed God's messengers and follow God's ways. Pray together the Act of Contrition for the times when your family has not heeded God's word.

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