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October 2, 1987

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7 Commentary The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 5 Mass Readings By FR. DONALD DILGER The parable of the vineyard and its owner Gospel Commentary for Sunday, Oct. 4, 1987 Matthew 21:33-43 -- The Parable of the Vineyard and Its Owner Matthew continues his denunciation of the Jewish leaders. At the end of this parable he in- cludes the Jewish people as a whole when he says: "The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a NATION that will produce its fruits." Behind this parable lies a parable of the Old Testament. It is from Isaiah 5:1-7 and is the first reading of today's Mass. In Isaiah the culprit is clearly all Israel. This may have influenced Mat- thew to include all of Israel in his denunciation. We can say this all the more because Matthew faithfully reproduces the parable from his source, the Gospel of Mark, but makes several significant changes and additions in Mark's version. (We have heard much about plagiarism in political speeches recently. A study of the Gospels side by side in- dicates that both Matthew and Luke plagiarized, that is copied from Mark and did so without any apology or recognition.) A further word about the parable in Isaiah i:1-7. Isaiah uses it as an introduction to a con- demnation of social injustice. Our Gospel parable is used as a condemnation of those who rejected Jesus. Now a brief look at the changes Matthew makes in Mark's version of the parable: The "man" who planted in Mark becomes the "ruler of the house" or head of the house in Mat- thew, perhaps a clearer indication of the planter as being God. Mark has two sendings in which a single servant is sent to collect part of the fruit of the vineyard while Matthew has two groups of ser- vants sent out twice to collect, so it seems, ALL of the fruit. Then Mark has a third sending of a single servant followed by multiple sendings. Matthew has only three sendings. At the beginning of his Gospel, in the geneology of Jesus, Matthew has divided the history of God's dealings with his peo- ple into three phases: before the exile, after the ex- ile, and finally the time of Jesus. Perhaps it is these three stages he has in mind here, Prophets are sent before the exile, after the exile and finally the Son, Jesus, is sent. Thus Matthew cleans up Mark's version of the parable to agree with his already stated view of the stages of God's dealings with his people. When Jesus in the parable asks what the owner of the vineyard will do in response to the violence of the tenants, Mark has Jesus continuing with the answer that the owner will come and destroy the tenants and rent the vineyard to others. In Mat- thew the answer is put into the mouths of the chief priests and elders of the people to whom Jesus has been speaking all this time, as is clear from Mat- thew 21:23. Thus the leaders are led by Matthew to condemn themselves with their own words as they had been led to do in the previous parable of the two sons. If the parable goes back to Jesus himself as seems likely to the end of verse 41, then Matthew may agree more with the original since by such questions to the hearers the speaker tried to draw the hearers to recognize themselves in the parable and thus be drawn to repentance. In the Old Testament parables were used in this way, for example, Nathan's parable to David in II Samuel, ch. 12. As the parable stood in its original form there was no vindication of the son who was killed. After the resurrection of Jesus Christian theology would have added the quote from Ps. 118 about the stone which the builders rejected had became the cornerstone. In Acts 4:11 we can see that Christian theology from earliest times interpreted this text from Ps. 118 as a reference to the resurrec- tion of Jesus. In this Matthew has followed Mark. Now he again deviates from Mark and added v. 43 that "the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it." Only Matthew now adds to this that the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parable and "understood that he was talking about them." Matthew also makes the killing of the son a more direct reference to the crucifixion of Jesus than does Mark. In Mark the son was killed and then the body was thrown outside the vineyard. In Mat- thew the son is first thrown out, then killed, as Jesus was crucified outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Even though all of Israel is included in the re- jection of Jesus, the parable is directed primarily to the leaders. (In a future column we will see why Matthew, more than other writers, is so opposed to the Jewish leaders.) In summary, the head of the house is God. The vineyard is Israel as in Isaiah 5. God is an absentee landlord who keeps in touch through his servants, clearly the prophets. The prophets usually did not meet with a happy fate even as prophetic people of our day. In Matthew 23:31 the scribes and Pharisees are called the "sons of those who who murdered the prophets." It is these leaders who are the tenants of the parable, who have not given the fruit of the vineyard to the head of the house, who will lose their place and their nation. The NATION who will produce fruit is clearly intended by Matthew to be the Gentiles who, by the time Matthew wrote, made up the majority of the Church. By this time it was clear that the Jews as a nation were not going to accept Jesus as Son of God or even as Messiah. This fits in with the whole scheme of Matthew's Gospel -- the Good News is preached first to the Jews who rejected it as a nation. Then it was preached to the Gentiles who accepted it. The new Israel thus becomes a gathering of Gentiles '" rather than of Jews. In studying the Gospel of Matthew one must keep in mind the words of Paul to the Romans that God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. He speaks of the Jews as the "Holy Root" of which we, the Gentiles are merely the branches which grow from that root and derive our holiness from the Jewish root. He speaks of us Gentiles as the wild olive branch grafted onto the rich root of the olive tree which is the Jewish peo- ple. He goes on to say that all of Israel will be sav- ed. That salvation may be quite different than the way our Christian theologians foresee it. Keeping the thoughts of Paul in mind as we study Matthew will give us a more balanced view and a more wholesome attitude toward our Jewish roots which were and remain holy, of which we are merely the branches, and grafted branches at that. (For those who wish to study the Gospels side by side, please visit your favorite religious bookstore for a copy of "Gospel Parallels" by Throckmorton.) Other readings of Sunday, Oct. 4: Isaiah 5:1.7; Philippians 4:6.9. Vatican Letter Debate begun du00ng visit may continue at Synod By AGOSTINO BONe NC News Service VATICAN CITY (NC) -- In his foreign travels, Pope John Paul II likes to soften his , criticisms of the societies and churches he visits by posing them as questions. He wants to stimulate people into finding their own answers and formulating their own pro- grams for improving what he views as bad situations. To help the process, the pope often suggests answers in other speeches. In order to get the full picture of what the pope is say- ing to Catholics of a country he is visiting, it is necessary to follow his speeches throughout the trip. Given this, the pope's Sept. 10-19 visit to the United States contained a harsh critique of U.S. society and the influence of the Catholic laity in transfor- ming it. The hard questions were pos- ed in the laity section of his speech to the U.S. bishops in Los Angeles. -- "How is the American culture evolving today? --"Is this evolution being in- fluenced by the Gospel? -- "Does it clearly reflect Christian inspiration? -- "Your music, your poetry and art, your drama, your pain- ting and sculpture, the literature that you are produc- ing -- are all these things which reflect the soul of a nation being influenced by the spirit of Christ for the perfection of humanity?" "These are difficult questions to answer, given the complexity and diversity of your culture. But they are relevant to an con- sideration of the role of the Catholic laity, 'the largest number of educated faithful in the world,'" the pope told the bishops. THE POPE WAS replying to a speech by Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland of Milwaukee on the U.S. laity. "The church in the U.S.A. can boast of having the largest number of educated faithful in the world," said Archbishop Weakland. Because of this "it can be assumed they will continue to take a prominent role in U.S. society and culture in the future," the archbishop said. Several days later, the pope answered his own questions in a speech to the laity in San Francisco. American society is marked by a "growing secularism," an "insidious relativism," a "materialistic consumerism" and an "alluring hedonism," he said. In a speech to entertainers and communications industry officials in Hollywood the pope criticized the promotion of "dehumanized sex through pornography or through a casual attitude toward sex and human life; greed through materialism and consumerism or irresponsible individualism; anger and vengefulness through violence or self- righteousness." The trip also highlighted a difference in emphasis between the pope and U.S. church representatives. The pope focused on the role of the laity as transformers of a temporal society needing Christian values. U.S. church representatives stressed that an educated laity is seeking greater responsibility within the church. The laity already questions U.S. society on such issues as immigration restrictions, civil injustices, religious persecu- tion, abortion, nuclear arma- ment and environmental damage, said Donna Hanson, chairwoman of the U.S. bishops' National Advisory Council, in the San Francisco meeting. She told the pope that lay people already are working on these issues. But there also are issues within the church concerning lay people, she said. These in- clude lay ministries and ques- tions raised about church teachings by an educated laity. "In my cultural experience, questioning is generally not rebellion nor dissent. It is rather a desire to participate and is a sign of both love and maturi- ty," she said. Archbishop Weakland made a similar point in his talk to the pope. U.S. lay people "are more in- clined to look at the intrinsic worth of an argument proposed by the teachers in the church than to accept it on the basis of the authority itself," the arch- bishop said. "Often that teaching touches areas where many of the faithful have professional competency (from medical-moral issues to complex economic ones, for ex- ample)," he said. "This demands a new kind of collaboration and a wider range of consultation on the part of the teaching office of the church," Archbishop Weak- land said. The debate took place two weeks before the start of the world Synod of Bishops which will discuss the role of the laity in the church and the world. It signalled that the question of whether the synod should con- centrate on the role of the laity in the world or its role in the church could be a point of fric- tion between some delegates and the Vatican. The pope looked forward to continuing the debate.