“We Proclaim the Cornerstone”
October 4, 2020
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
On this the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we continue with the parables of the Kingdom. With the parable of the tenants in the vineyard, the first century Jews in Jesus’ time would understand this automatically. They were brought up in the synagogue and they knew that the metaphor of the vineyard is talking about Israel. They knew that it was from the book of Isaiah.
In the parable, the landowner is God who planted a vineyard, equipped it, and painstakingly invested in it. He chose a very good location, a fertile ground, and he took the stones out of the soil which was very laborious thing to do. The tenants are the people of God, the workers in it. The slaves are the prophets, the representatives of God, whose role is to bring out fruit from the people as they bring the message of God through them. The son of the landowner is Jesus Christ who, a few days before His death, was prophesying that He was going to be killed outside of Jerusalem.
Did the tenants reject only the representatives of God and then respected His Son? I hear some Christians say, “I don’t like the Church. I love Jesus but I don’t like the Church. I don’t like the hypocrites inside the Church.” We cannot love God without loving the Church. A Church father, named Cyprian of Carthage said, “No one can have God for his Father if he doesn’t have a Church for his mother.” Jesus said, “He who receives You, receives Me. He who receives Me, receives Him who sent Me.” We cannot separate them because they are one so I don’t understand why sometimes people hate the Church. The Church is not perfect, but most of the time, she just does the will of God. Her representatives relay the message of God.
In both Isaiah 5 and Matthew 21, the tenants, in their greediness, instead of bearing the sweet fruit of justice and righteousness, behold there was bloodshed and violence. Why did the tenants mistreat the slaves for doing their job, which is collecting the fruit that is due to the landowner? It is because the tenants did not want to hear what the slaves or the representatives of God had to say. They don’t want to do what they are being asked to do – to give back to the owner the fruit that the vineyard produced.
One time, Jesus came back to His hometown, Nazareth, and He spoke in the synagogue, just preaching the gospel. He was hated and the people wanted to kill Him. Jesus wondered at their unbelief thinking, “What is the problem of these people of God? I am just preaching the gospel that came from their God and they don’t want to follow them and this is why it offends them.” Why hate the representatives and the spokespersons of God when what they are preaching is not wrong or heretical? The reason is that they are a threat to, “What I want – to my profit and my interest.”
In Philippians 3:18-19, St. Paul said that the enemies of the Cross are those whose god is their appetite or whose god is their selfish gain. Jesus therefore warns and confronts the Pharisees who were the tenant in the parable, “Therefore, the kingdom of God will be taken from you who don’t give back to God the fruit that is due Him. The kingdom will be taken from you and will be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.”
In Acts 13, in St. Paul’s first missionary journey, they were in Pisidian Antioch and they were preaching in the synagogue and some of the Jews persecuted them. St. Paul told them, “It is necessary that the word of God is preached to you first; but since you rejected it, we are turning to the Gentiles. The kingdom of God will be taken from you; the favor of God, the blessing, the equipping of God will be taken from you and will be given to somebody who is faithful and generous to share it to give back to God.” The word of God and the will of God will always be accomplished.
The religious leaders on Palm Sunday said to Jesus, “Silence Your disciples who are worshipping You,” and Jesus replied, “If they become silent, the stones will cry out.” God’s praise will always be proclaimed –from the rising of the sun to its setting. If we refuse to do it, He will raise somebody else. His word will not return to Him void and His kingdom will not stop. It will always be fulfilled because God will always choose somebody to fulfill it.
Several years ago, I chanced to watch an interview of a feminist and I remember her words. She said that the reason they are pushing this movement is not because they are arrogant or rebellious, but it is because they are crying from the inside for men to rise up. The men are not doing their job so they felt they had to do it. A woman pastor said, “I was not originally called by God to be a pastor of this church, but God told me that He called a man and he said “no” to Him and so He raised up another which happened to be me.” God will be faithful to choose one who will produce the fruit of His kingdom. If we pass the chance to be used by God, He will use someone else.
God wants us to respond. God wants us to be blessed. God is not in need of the harvest of His vineyard. He is self-sufficient. What do we have that we can give to Him that He already has? What He wants is what we need, and what we need is to discover the joy of the Lord so that this joy may be in us, so that our joy may be full. He calls us so that we can have joy in bearing fruit.
The Church is equipped. God chose fertile soil on a hill. He cleaned out the soil which is a very tedious job, and He put a wall around it, dug around it and built a tower so that it will be protected from bandits and wild animals. The Church is equipped and has been given everything that she needs to produce fine wine. What is wine? Proverbs says that wine is what makes the heart merry. It is something that brings joy and gladness.
Being equipped, being given everything pertaining to life and godliness, being blessed with every spiritual blessing from the heavenly places, we are expected to give back to God the harvest that is due Him that is pleasing to Him. Wine is supposed to be pleasing and giving gladness. We give of our time, talent, and treasure to God through His representative – that is the local church community that we belong to and which He has assigned us to. We remit the harvest, the fruit due to Him through His representative. We also give to charity, to the world, because we, the Church, are supposed to be the joy of the whole earth. We serve this wine to all the nations to bring gladness and to make their heart merry.
Have we been giving the world sour wine? Have we been withholding the fruit that is supposed to be shared and remitted? Do not withhold because if we withhold, our product will be sour and we will not enjoy it. We hoard and think that we will enrich ourselves. What we hoard for ourselves will turn sour or may rot. We will not profit and enjoy it so we might as well share and distribute it.
We are not owners. There is an owner; the landowner; and this is God who is the Lord of all creation, Owner of the earth and everything that is in it. We are merely stewards. Let us not be arrogant as to say that we worked for it. Let us not like be those workers who worked the whole day saying, “I am more deserving because I worked hard for twelve hours and I earned this and I should be keeping my earnings.” Always understand that it is God who gives us the power to make wealth. Everything else- the equipment, the property, the factory, the raw materials – God supplies and He owns all. We are merely workers, tenants, and stewards. We are called to be priests to give back an offering to Him and to share the blessings to the whole earth. Our wine, the joy of the whole earth is supposed to make their heart merry.
Given all that we have done and failed to do, God still gives back to us what we rejected. Jesus said, “The stone which the builders rejected God gave back to them and this became the Chief Cornerstone.” The Cornerstone became the foundation, the model of the New Jerusalem that will be built. Jesus became the Chief Cornerstone and this is the Lord’s doing. It is by grace and it is marvelous in our eyes.
In Isaiah 25, Isaiah painted a picture of the future and he said, “One day on the mountain of the Lord, there will be a lavish banquet where there is refined aged wine.” It is a picture of a perfected church which produces good wine and ALL nations will be at the banquet. How do we get there? Jesus, the Cornerstone, is and shows the way, the truth and the life. Jesus shows what St. Paul says in Philippians 3 on how it is to be a citizen of heaven.
Our mission is to bring heaven down here on earth. Jesus invites us to follow Him as the Chief Cornerstone, to learn from Him, and to proclaim Him The Cornerstone because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.