Christ’s Model Stewards

Matthew 21:33-43,45-46
Gn 37:3-4,12-13,17-28 / Ps 105

‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the main cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’
(Matthew 21:42)

Our life’s a vineyard on a lease,
We must share part of its produce;
We can’t just squander as we please,
Or else this stewardship we’ll lose.

(Jesus) said, “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time came, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share. The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They replied, He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the main cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew He was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest Him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that He was a prophet. (Matthew 21:33-43,45-46)

Reflection

Clearly, the Pharisees, scribes and temple priests were the wicked tenants to whom God (the Landowner) first entrusted His vineyard (the kingdom). God had ‘planted’ His covenant with the Jews, brought them to the Promised Land, and had their own temple built to set them apart from other people. But when God sent his prophets to them, they had them persecuted. Now, when God’s Son Himself came bringing the Good News of salvation, the Jews rejected Him too, and drove Him out of their vineyard (to Calvary), where they persecuted and killed Him. Jesus even reminded them of this prophecy in the Old Testament: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (Ps.118:22) And true enough, Christ, Whom the builders of Judaism rejected has become the cornerstone of Christianity.

Our Lord’s parable of the wicked tenants was a prophecy of the impending transfer of God’s inheritance to the gentiles. The Jews had rejected the Good News of the Son, so the Father gave His legacy to non-Jews. Recall Joseph (1st reading), the closest precursor of Jesus in the Old Testament. As the favorite of his father, he was also rejected by his own brothers. He was sold to foreigners for twenty pieces of silver, and was brought to Egypt as a slave. But his deprivation and exile to Egypt would later on prove to be a blessing for the nation of Israel, as he would save his people as well as many other nations from starvation because of his astute stewardship of Egypt’s resources. The rejected son had thus become his nation’s cornerstone.

Today (March 9) is the feast day of St. Frances of Rome. She was born in 1384 to a wealthy and aristocratic couple in Rome, but she dedicated her life to God, serving the church and the poor (to the point of begging for alms) even though she belonged to wealthy nobility. She had wanted to be a nun at the young age of eleven, but she obeyed her father to marry the heir of an extremely wealthy family, who was also the commander of the papal troops in Rome. Although her marriage was blessed, she experienced severe hardships, losing two children to a plague, nursing her disabled husband until his death, and losing their properties because of the war. But these did not discourage her from serving the poor and the sick, converting her remaining estate into a hospital, and inspiring other women of nobility to follow her example in her ministry of mercy. St. Frances was a mystic who had “the gift of miracles and ecstasy, (as) well as a vision of her guardian angel.” She founded the Olivetan Oblates of Mary, a confraternity of pious women, attached to the Church of Santa Maria Nova in Rome. She was canonized by Pope Paul V on May 9, 1608.

We have Joseph the patriarch and St. Frances to follow as our models of stewardship. One day, all of us will be called to account, whether we have given back to the Landlord His rightful share. As stewards, we may be tempted to believe that we own what has been entrusted to us, and that we can do with our talents and resources as we so please. That would be missing the whole point of our Lord’s beautiful parable.

Let me not forget, Lord, that I am but a tenant of this borrowed life; grant me the wisdom to employ what you have leased to me according to Your will. Amen.

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