Scripture: 1st Reading: Gen37,3-4,12-13,17-28; Resp. Psalm: Ps105,16-21; Gosp. Accl.: Jn3,16; Gospel: Mt21,33-46
Our readings today are very instructive for our salvation. May the Lord open our hearts and minds to receive the message contained in them. In our First Reading, we read about love that turned awry, a preferential love that elicited hatred. We read of sibling rivalry and struggle for the attention of Jacob, their father. We read about the unfortunate and sad jealousy against Joseph because of his dreams that foretold the future. We read about their envy against him for being the son of the woman that was loved, the son for whom the coat of many colours was bought. We read about the grave problem that Jacob's polygamous home raised up because of the attendant issues of preferences and particular love.
We have in today's first reading the level to which hatred can push the human heart: consumed by hatred, the human heart sees the other person as a "thing". Hatred makes the human heart to dehumanize and demonize the other person. Joseph walked in innocence, acted in innocence, with no pretensions and no hidden agenda. In spite of what his future would be, which no one in spite of human shenanigans and plots would be able to change, Joseph showed love and care towards his brothers. In return for his love, they plotted to end his life.
They called him the dreamer. They pretended not to know his name. They repudiated their blood kinship with him. They saw him no longer as their brother. They wanted to put an end to the fulfilment of his dream to be lord over them. Having been loved by Jacob their father, they could not accept him having yet a better and rosier future than they. They haggled over what to do with him, the way people do when they want to dispose off their wares in the market place. At first they wanted to kill him. Then they decided to throw him into a pit to die a slow but agonizing death. Finally, they settled for selling him into slavery.
Joseph was meant to die. He was sold and his brothers thought they had ended his destiny. We know better now who eventually had the last laugh. Our Gospel passage today relates a similar episode. Our Lord in the parable of the wicked tenants painted the picture of the highest type of ingratitude, wickedness and godlessness: the wickedness of these servants who were privileged to have been entrusted with a vineyard they never planted.
The ingratitude of these servants is mind boggling: they did not want to be just servants; they wanted to own the vineyard. They would do this by killing the heir. Now, this parable that our Lord told today is a prediction of the death He was going to suffer in the hands of those He was sent to redeem. His Father is the owner of the vineyard. The vineyard is the kingdom. The servants in this case are the original inheritors of the promise that was made to Abraham. Our Lord is the Son of the vineyard owner.
In spite of the end He knew awaited Him, our Lord today predicted that evil would not triumph over good. Just as Joseph's destiny was never truncated by his sale into slavery but rather brought him glory, fame and he became a "saviour" of the sons of Israel during the time of famine, in like manner, the stone which the builders would reject, that is, our Lord Jesus Himself, would eventually become the cornerstone. Just as his brother's rejection led to Joseph's acceptance and blessing on Egypt, in the same way, the kingdom would be taken from those who rejected it and given to "a nation producing the fruits of it."
The plots of men never ended God's plan for Joseph's life. The hatred of men never ended God's designs in the life of His beloved Son. Lent directs our attention to this fact. Lent makes us realize that God's purposes were fulfilled despite human objections. The Heir would be killed; but the Heir would be glorified. They tried to arrest Him today but feared the crowd that considered Him a prophet.
Are we afraid of the plots of men? Are we fearful of their evil schemes? Do we believe they have the power to change God's course for our lives? Do we think that evil will have the last laugh? Today's readings direct our attention to God's gratuitous love and our wholesale ingratitude and indifference to that love. Lent calls us back to return to appreciate the love of our God. Lent calls us back to return love for love.
Let us pray: "Grant, we pray, almighty God, that, purifying us by the sacred practice of penance, you may lead us in sincerity of heart to attain the Holy things to come." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.