Our Models of Stewardship

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.

“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 the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the produce. 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 the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous to behold’? 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

Jesus was referring to the Jewish authorities as 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, the closest precursor of Jesus in the Old Testament. Although 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.

We also remember St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. The life story of St. Patrick bears resemblance to that of Joseph, the dreamer. He was also shipped to Ireland as a slave, after being kidnapped in England at the age of 16. He was also a shepherd, and like Joseph, was guided by a dream, wherein he was told to return to Britain. Escaping from his masters, he took shelter and studied in monasteries, until he was ordained a priest, and eventually consecrated as a bishop. Returning to Ireland by order of Pope Clementine, he was largely responsible for its total conversion into the Catholic faith in 33 years of stewardship. We have Joseph, the patriarch and St. Patrick to follow as our models of stewardship. All of us will be called to account, whether we have given back to the Landlord His rightful share. As His tenants, 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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