All Day (Friday)
Meditations for Lent By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press Week 2: Friday The Wicked Tenants “Hear another parable” (Matt. 21:33). He speaks to us as well as to the Jews. Let us listen
Meditations for Lent
By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press
Week 2: Friday
The Wicked Tenants
“Hear another parable” (Matt. 21:33). He speaks to us as well as to the Jews. Let us listen then, and let us see the entire history of the Church under the simplest figure imaginable.
“There was a householder who planted a vineyard” (Matt. 21:33). It was David who sang of it: “Thou didst bring a vine out of Egypt; thou didst drive out the nations and plant it. . . . It took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches; it sent out its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the river” (cf. Ps. 80:8-11). Here is something even clearer in Isaiah: “My beloved,” that is, my anointed Son, the Christ, “had a vineyard on a very fertile hill,” and he “planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it,” for those who would care for it, and he “hewed out a wine vat in it” (Isa. 5:1-2). These are the very words of our Savior.
“He let it out to tenants” (Matt. 21:33). He committed the tending of it to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and to the doctors of the Law.
“He sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit” (Matt. 21:34). “I have sent to you all my servants the prophets” (Jer. 35:15), in morning and evening, to warn the princes, the priests, and the people, that they ought to give to God the fruit he expects from the tending he had given to his vineyard with the Law and the Sacred Scriptures. Instead of listening to the prophets, they persecuted and killed them (Matt. 23:34). “Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute?” St. Stephen asked them. “They killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered” (Acts 7:52). This is just what Jesus reproaches them for in this parable.
After all the prophets, “he sent his son,” Christ himself, saying, “They will respect my son” (Matt. 21:37). He had what he needed to make himself respected: his admirable doctrine and his miracles. Nevertheless, they dragged him from the vineyard, from Jerusalem, onto Calvary, and they had him brutally slain by the Romans.
We should marvel at the way that Jesus boldly challenges them with this parable, revealing their schemes, what they will accomplish in just two days. Should they not have been moved by his discourse? And all the more since the Savior placed their very crime so plainly before their eyes, so that when he asked them what the householder would do in that case, they were constrained to respond: “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants” (Matt. 21:41). Which he then proceeded to explain, saying, “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it” (Matt. 21:43). This is indeed what soon happened, as the Apostles told them: “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles’ ” (Acts 13:46-7; cf. Isaiah 49:6).
Let us not mistake our Savior’s purposes: since we are the nation he has chosen to bear the fruit of his word, let us be fruitful in good works. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22). These are the fruits we must bear, and not the works of the flesh that bear the fruit of death, which are “immorality, impurity, enmity, strife, drunkenness, carousing” and the others that St. Paul lists in the same place (Gal. 5:19-21). Otherwise the kingdom of God will be taken from us as it was taken from the Jews, and another will “seize our crown” (cf. Rev. 3:11). “For if God did not spare” the Jews, who were “the natural branches, neither will he spare you” (Rom. 11:21). This was the great sadness of the Jews: to see the crown that had been destined to them placed in the hands of the Gentiles, when, as the Savior said, “many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth” (Matt. 8:11-12). For they will see the place that they should have had, the crown that they should have worn, and they will see their place filled by others and their crown on other heads. Then they will cry futile tears, and they will be enraged to the point of grinding their teeth. Listen, Christian! Read your destiny in that of the Jews, but read it and listen in your heart, and do not allow so clear a parable to be unheeded.
O my God! You have destined this crown for me. Let me quickly wrest it from your hands: it will not perish, for you know to whom you have given it, you know your elect, and the number of them will be complete. Place me among the number of those who will not lose their crown.