The Wicked Tenants

Jesus began to speak to the chief priests, the scribes,
and the elders in parables.
“A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it,
dug a wine press, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenant farmers and left on a journey.
At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants
to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard.
But they seized him, beat him,
and sent him away empty-handed.
Again he sent them another servant.
And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully.
He sent yet another whom they killed.
So, too, many others; some they beat, others they killed.
He had one other to send, a beloved son.
He sent him to them last of all, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’
But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’
So they seized him and killed him,
and threw him out of the vineyard.
What then will the owner of the vineyard do?
He will come, put the tenants to death,
and give the vineyard to others.
Have you not read this Scripture passage:

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?”

They were seeking to arrest him, but they feared the crowd,
for they realized that he had addressed the parable to them.
So they left him and went away.
(Mark 12:1-12)

Scripture Study

The parable of the Wicked Tenants narrates the history of Israel. The story stresses that God has been patient with his wayward people throughout the ages. The vineyard represents Israel dwelling in the walled city of Jerusalem (Jer 2:21; Hos 10:1), the tower is the Temple (as in Jewish tradition based on Is 5:1–2), and the tenants are Israel’s leaders stationed in the city. The servants are OT prophets repeatedly sent by God to call for repentance. Many prophets were abused and killed (12:5; Lk 13:34). God eventually sent Jesus as the beloved son (12:6), whom they also killed (12:8). By adding the detail that the son is thrust out of the vineyard (12:8), Jesus predicts his Crucifixion outside the city walls of Jerusalem (Jn 19:20). God will avenge his Son when he sends him to destroy (12:9) the unfaithful of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. ● Morally (St. Bede, In Marcum): the vineyard of Israel signifies every Christian, whose duty it is to cultivate his new life given in Baptism. The Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms are sent as messengers one after another, and finally, as recounted in the Gospels, the Father sends his Son. Should we despise these servants in pride, and even spurn the Son of God through sin, the graces we forfeit will be given to others more willing to receive them.

A citation from Ps 118:22–23, a psalm chanted by Passover pilgrims flocking to Jerusalem. ● Psalm 118 foretells the bitter irony of Holy Week: Jerusalem’s leaders (the builders) will reject their Messiah (stone) despite his divine mission (the Lord’s doing), while his work will be called marvelous by those who recognize him with the eyes of faith. The psalm is implying that the old Temple will be replaced with another, where the rejected Messiah will serve as the honored cornerstone of the new edifice (Eph 2:19–22; 1 Pet 2:4–5; CCC 756).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel tells of the landowner who planted a vineyard and leased it to tenants. This vineyard stands for Israel, but it could be broadened to include the whole world. Like the landowner, God has made for his people a beautiful and productive place, a place where they can find rest, enjoyment, and good work.

When vintage time drew near, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to obtain the produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Is this not the whole, sorry history of Israel and its prophets, of the world and the people whom God has sent?

Then we hear the event upon which the parable turns: “Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they killed him.” After the terrible treatment that his representatives have received, the owner sends his son? Is he crazy? Yes, a little. But this is the over-the-top patience and generosity of God, his crazy love. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,” knowing full well what his fate would be.
– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.