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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Matthew 21,33-43.45-46

'Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them thinking, "They will respect my son." But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, "This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance." So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?' They answered, 'He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him at the proper time.' Jesus said to them, 'Have you never read in the scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this is the Lord's doing and we marvel at it? 'I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and givena people who will produce its fruit.' When they heard his parables, the chief priests and the scribes realised he was speaking about them, but though they would have liked to arrest him they were afraid of the crowds, who looked on him as a prophet.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

There is a growing startling contrast in this Gospel passage: as love grows, so does hostility, and vice versa: as human inhospitality grows, so does God’s love. When the harvest comes, the landowner sends his servants to the tenants to collect the harvest. Their reaction is violent: they beat, kill, and stone the servants. The landowner “again” sends servants, in greater number, but they encounter the same reaction. It is like rereading an effective and tragic summary of the ancient and ever-recurrent story of the violent opposition (even outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition) to the “servants” of God, to men of the “word” (the prophets), the just and honest of every time and place, of every tradition and culture, who, like the “wicked” farmers, want to serve only themselves and their personal advantage. But the Lord – and this is the true thread of hope that underlies human history and redeems it – does not diminish his love for men and women, but actually increases it. “Finally” the landowner sends his own son, believing that they will respect him. But instead the fury of the tenants explodes and they decide to kill him to take his inheritance. They seize him, throw him “out of the vineyard,” and kill him. These words were perhaps clear only to Jesus when he spoke them. But today we understand them too: they literally describe what happened to Jesus. He was born outside of Bethlehem; he died outside of Jerusalem. Jesus very lucidly and clearly denounces the infidelity and inhospitality of the servants who go so far as killing even the landowner’s son. At the end of the parable, Jesus asks his audience what the landowner will do to his tenants. The answer: he will punish them, take the vineyard away from them, and entrust it to others, who will make it bear fruit. God expects fruit. This is the criterion according to which the vineyard is assigned. The warning travels from those who were listening to Jesus all the way to us. The Gospel tells us not to fall prey to the easy illusion of claiming an inalienable right of ownership over the “vineyard,” which always belongs to God. The new tenants are judged on the fruit they bear, not on whether they belong. Only fruits of justice, piety, mercy, and love allow us to take part in the people of God. It is written in John’s Gospel (15:2): “He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.” And again, “You will know them by their fruits.”

Memory of Jesus crucified

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 14 January
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 15 January
Prayer for peace
Tuesday, 16 January
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 17 January
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
Thursday, 18 January
Memory of the Church
Friday, 19 January
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 20 January
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 21 January
Liturgy of the Sunday