Today’s Gospel (Matt 21:33-43) is a polemic passage — a text supporting one viewpoint over another. We hear a parable about a vineyard, whose tenant farmers try to take it over by killing the king owner’s son. This parable follows two other passages in Matthew 21: the cleansing of the temple, and the cursing of the fig tree. The setting for these passages is Jerusalem, and Matthew is describing the hostility between Jesus and the Jews that will lead to Jesus’ crucifixion. Is Jesus speaking against his own religion and its people? No, Jesus is taking issue with the leaders of his religion. Unfortunately our Gospel today stops before verse 45: “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he spoke about them.” Biblical scholars want us to clearly understand that it is the leaders Jesus is criticizing. Why? Because as time went on, Christians increasingly came to believe that they were the only true covenant people, that they had replaced the Jews as God’s chosen ones. Today’s Gospel and passages like it were used to justify denigrating the Jewish people. So, if our Gospel today is about bad leadership, perhaps this is a timely passage for us. As we approach national elections, what is a good leader? Jesus gave us some insight into that answer with his images of good shepherds and servant leadership and sacrificial love. What if we looked at candidates from those perspectives?
– Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia