Fourth Sunday of the Great Fast

Qeryana I (Old Testament Reading I):

Gen 11:1-32

Qeryana II (Old Testament Reading II): Josh 6:27-7:15
Engarta (Epistle Reading): Rom 8:12-21
Evangalion (Gospel): Mt 21:33-46
Click play to listen the Evangalion (gospel reading) of the day.


Question of Collective and Individual Responsibility to be Obedient to the Divine Purpose.


Genesis 11 is the last chapter of the early history of humankind, narrated in Genesis. 1-11 chapters that explain the creation of the world, the origin of human beings and the failure of God’s plans for humanity due to the disobedience of our first parents. These stories are followed by others of collective and individual acts in opposition to God. The story of the Tower of Babel highlights the collective energy of sin that gains control of human aspirations. The story presents the human attempt to build a tower, making use of technological skill not for the betterment of society, but, rather, for an attempt to “transcend the limits of creaturely limitation.” Human beings are given technical and communication skills, not for challenging God, but for constructive purposes.  When human schemes go against their basic purpose, God frustrates them.


As we come to the close of chapter 11, in vs. 11-32, the focus shifts from the entire human race to that of a single nation, Israel.  The idea is that Israel has a special vocation in the context of its being part of the human race. Israel is chosen to know God more closely and to live in a relationship of covenant reciprocity. It is a gift given to her. As God’s chosen people, Christians, like Israel, are called to know God more intimately and show to the world the benefits of living in loving obedience to Him, as revealed by Jesus Christ.


In Josh 6:27-7-15 two contrasting episodes in the history of the people of Israel are mentioned. Rahab, a foreigner and a prostitute, through her courage and faith in the God of Exodus, becomes member of the chosen people. The people of Israel, who are the insiders, are cast away because of their disobedience.


The parable of the labourers in the vineyard is given by all of the Synoptic gospels. It points to the ups and downs of the relationship between Yahweh and Israel and also to the strained relationship between Jesus and the leaders of the then Jewish community.  It implies that the future of the chosen people will be determined by their attitude towards Jesus and his message.  The tenants, who are entrusted with the responsibility to abide by the plan of the owner, behaved irresponsibly by rebelling against him. Many scholars think this parable relies heavily on the song of the vineyard in Isa 5:1-7. In both cases God is the owner and Israel is the vineyard.  But there are differences: Whereas in Isa 5:1-7 the focus is on the failure of the vine to produce fruits to the expectation of the owner, in Mat 21:33-46, the stress is not on the vineyard and its produce, but on the iniquitous response of the  custodians of the vineyard.  While keeping the ownership of the vineyard, God takes it away from the caretakers and entrusts it to new guardians.  Another difference is that the vineyard represents in the NT parable not Israel but the wider reality of the kingdom of God.  The parable suggests that the reason for the rejection of the people of Israel from God’s plan of salvation is the result of the wrong policies of the leaders of the community who were expected to lead the people in the path of righteousness. The climax is the rejection of his only son, who is sent by the owner. The responsibility of the kingdom will be transferred to the faithful ones (Isa 55:3-5).


The parable of the wicked tenants places attention on the leaders of that time. Their failure to accept Jesus and his message prompted God to continue salvation history through the Church. In other words, the Church is custodian of the kingdom of God.  Thus, she must manifest the values of the kingdom of God through her life. The parable is also an exhortation to every member of the Church, especially those who are in authority, to be the flock of God entrusted to them with faithfulness to the purpose of the founder and owner, Jesus Christ.  This parable is also a warning. If God rejected his chosen people because of their fruitlessness and transferred their privileges to others, He can do the same with Christians, both as individuals and community, if we forget that we are not owners, but tenants. As tenants, we are to abide by the plan and purpose of the owner.


Credits: Father Joy Philip Kakkanattu, CMI <jpkakkanattu 'at' gmail 'dot' com>

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