Is 5:1-7; Phil. 4:6-9; Mt. 21:33-43.
The first reading and the Gospel of today is not a simple parable, but an allegory. All the characters and the events can be identified. God Yahweh is the owner of the vineyard; the vineyard is the people of Israel. They were the chosen vine because God chose and called Abraham and his descendants: “You will be my own people, and I will be your God.” The hedge was like a fence for protection from wild animals; the tower was a look out for human vandals who may come to destroy the vineyard; and the wine press was used to crush the grapes to bring out the juice to ferment into wine. It was a perfect project. God gave Israel the Ten Commandments to protect them from following the evil conduct of the pagan nations around them. They were given the Hierarchy: High Priest, Priests and the Levites to render worship in the Temple. The Temple was their place of worship where they could pray, praise God, and thank him for favors received. They were given sacrifices and holocausts and offerings for different needs, especially to seek favors, and forgiveness for offenses committed by princes and leaders, by priests, and by the common man. They had specific holy days to make pilgrimages and celebrate in the temple of God. Yes, God established a complete Church -Qahal Yahweh-, so that Israel could grow into a fruitful vineyard of God. They only had to produce good fruits, press the grapes and produce good wine.
God further sent prophets to teach and remind Israel at different points in their history, to call them to conversion, back to the observance of the precepts and Ten Commandments. It is recorded in the Bible that they killed prophets and stoned them because they rebuked them of their evil ways. Finally the time came when God sent his Son. The populace and sinners accepted Jesus. Jealous of his popularity, those in authority contradicted and persecuted him, seeking ways to discredit him. The Sanhedrin, the priests, Pharisees and scribes did not stop until they put him to death through the hands of the Romans. “They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” The Protestants claim a skull place outside the present walls of Jerusalem. But the present walls were built by the Ottoman in the 1605 A.D. The Jerusalem walls of Jesus’ time were Herodian walls, and the Catholic Calvary lies outside the walls of Herodian Jerusalem. When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. the debris was thrown into the Kidron Valley covering the door to the Holy Sepulcher. When later in 135 Hadrian saw the Christians frequenting Calvary, he further levelled the hill and to deter the Christians from the place, built a Temple of Jupiter on Calvary and of Venus on the Holy Sepulcher. In 325 A.D. when St. Helen came in search for the Holy Places, the Christians who still lived in Jerusalem pointed out the two pagan temples. They were, therefore, able to dig out the Holy Cross and the Holy Sepulcher. Yes, the Son of the vineyard Owner was thrown out and killed outside of the vineyard. The vineyard Owner “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 time.” After the Pentecost, the Apostles and disciples preached at first only to the Jews, but the Pharisees and Scribes contradicted them everywhere until Paul and Barnabas decided to go to the Greeks and other Gentiles. Thus the faith went out to the whole Roman Empire and many Gentiles became martyrs side by side with Jewish Christians. The rich harvest of martyrs and holy men and women came from the Gentile converts to Christianity. We only have to read the stories of the many “Incorruptibles” in the Catholic Church.
For us in the Philippines, we received the faith five centuries ago. The missionary friars gave us parishes and Catholic schools and we formed our Filipino culture around the faith. Still up to today our government authorities lead us to immoral laws of divorce, same sex-marriage, abortion, corruption in government and drug addiction. The challenge for us the Catholic faithful is to live our Ten Commandments and Moral Laws despite their rampant violation by government. Let us do our worship in spirit and truth as the Lord commands despite the pagan practices around us. Let us keep the Lord alive in our hearts and in our way of living, producing the fruits worthy of eternal life.