Reflections on the Scripture Readings for this Weekend — 20170903

Our first reading this weekend is taken from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians wherein he tells them and us: “Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith… In a word, be strong. Do everything with love.” He clearly states a way of living that is based on the teachings of Jesus. A Christian is ever watchful so that when life presents challenges he can respond to them in a manner similar to that way Jesus met the challenges in His life. If we base our response to the events of life in the manner that our faith tells us, then we will have peace and will grow in our likeness of Christ. It is our job as Christians to support and to encourage one another to live in the manner that Jesus did.

Our second reading, taken from Matthew’s Gospel, presents the parable of the “tenants”. It is one of Jesus’ parable of which we should all be aware. This parable also goes by the name of the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen.

Matthew has somewhat expanded this parable in order to make the point entirely clear, although the parable is not obscure in Mark. The description of the vineyard is given in words that closely echo Isaiah 5:2., where the vineyard symbolizes Israel. The parable of Jesus has allegorical features. The owner is an absentee landlord, and in the New Testament (NT) such disputes between landlords and tenants were not unknown. Matthew increases the number of the slaves so that their allegorical significance may be completely clear; the slaves represent the prophets. The allegorical significance of the son is not equally clear. No Old Testament figure can be intended and the death of John the Baptizer cannot be attributed to the Jews. If the son is an allegorical figure, he can represent no one but Jesus; and one would expect more to be made of this feature of the parable. As a suggestion that Jesus himself is the son who is killed, this passage is extremely delicate; that it is an ecclesiastical expansion inserted in the primitive Church seems unlikely because it is a part of the climactic structure of the parable.

So as we think about both of these readings we hear an exhortation to be aware that the message is that we must be on guard to maintain a way of responding to the challenges of life that is in accord with the Jesus way. The parable also tells us not to take advantage of any of the situations in life that we think might benefit us as the tenants did. To benefit at the expense of others is not the way.

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