St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

Isaiah 5:1–7
Psalm 80:9, 12–16, 19–20
Philippians 4:6–9
Matthew 21:33–43

In today’s Gospel Jesus returns to the Old Testament symbol of the vineyard to teach about Israel, the Church, and the kingdom of God.

And the symbolism of today’s First Reading and Psalm is readily understood.

God is the owner and the house of Israel is the vineyard. A cherished vine, Israel was plucked from Egypt and transplanted in a fertile land specially spaded and prepared by God, hedged about by the city walls of Jerusalem, watched over by the towering Temple. But the vineyard produced no good grapes for the wine, a symbol for the holy lives God wanted for His people. So God allowed His vineyard to be overrun by foreign invaders, as Isaiah foresees in the First Reading.

Jesus picks up the story where Isaiah leaves off, even using Isaiah’s words to describe the vineyard’s wine press, hedge, and watchtower. Israel’s religious leaders, the tenants in His parable, have learned nothing from Isaiah or Israel’s past. Instead of producing good fruits, they’ve killed the owner’s servants, the prophets sent to gather the harvest of faithful souls.

In a dark foreshadowing of His own crucifixion outside Jerusalem, Jesus says the tenants’ final outrage will be to seize the owner’s son, and to kill him outside the vineyard walls.

For this, the vineyard, which Jesus calls the kingdom of God, will be taken away and given to new tenants—the leaders of the Church, who will produce its fruit.

We are each a vine in the Lord’s vineyard, grafted onto the true vine of Christ (see John 15:1–8), called to bear fruits of the righteousness in Him (see Philippians 1:11) and to be the “first fruits” of a new creation (see James 1:18).

We need to take care that we don’t let ourselves be overgrown with the thorns and briars of worldly anxiety. As today’s Epistle advises, we need to fill our hearts and minds with noble intentions and virtuous deeds, rejoicing always that the Lord is near.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_27th_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Lecturas:
Isaías 5, 1–7
Salmo 80,9.12–16.19–20
Filipenses 4, 6–9
Mateo 21,33–43

Jesús, en el Evangelio de esta semana, utiliza de nuevo el símbolo veterotestamentario de la viña para instruir sobre Israel, la Iglesia y el reino de Dios. Es fácil también comprender el simbolismo de la primera lectura y el salmo.

Dios es el propietario y la casa de Israel es la viña. Como vid apreciada, Israel es arrancada de Egipto y trasplantada en una tierra fértil preparada especialmente por Dios; es cercada por las murallas de Jerusalén y vigilada por el imponente Templo. Pero la viña no produjo uvas buenas para vino, símbolo de las vidas santas que Dios esperaba de su pueblo. Por ello Dios permitió que fuera invadida por invasores extranjeros, como Isaías prevé en la primera lectura.

Jesús continúa la historia en donde la deja Isaías, incluso usando sus palabras para describir el lagar, la cerca y la torre. Los líderes religiosos de Israel, los labradores de esta parábola, no han aprendido nada de Isaías ni del pasado de Israel. En vez de producir buenos frutos, han matado a los servidores del propietario, los profetas enviados para reunir la cosecha: las almas fieles.

Como oscuro presagio de su propia crucifixión fuera de Jerusalén, Jesús dice que el ultraje final de los labradores será detener al hijo del propietario y matarlo fuera de las murallas de la viña.

Por esto la viña, a la que Jesús llama reino de Dios, les será quitada y le será entregada a nuevos labradores: los líderes de la Iglesia, que producirá sus frutos.

Cada uno de nosotros es una vid en la viña del Señor, injertada en la Vid verdadera que es Cristo (cf. Jn 15,1–8), llamado a llevar frutos de justicia en Él (cf. Flp 1,11) y a ser “primicia” de una nueva creación (cf. St 1,18).

Debemos cuidar el no dejarnos perdernos por las espinas y las zarzas que son las preocupaciones del mundo. Como advierte la epístola de hoy, hemos de llenar nuestro corazón y nuestra mente con intenciones nobles y acciones virtuosas, regocijándonos siempre por que el Señor está cerca.

Direct download: A_27_Ordinary_Spn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Ezekiel 18:25-28
Psalm 25:4-9
Philippians 2:1-11
Matthew 21:28-32

Echoing the complaint heard in last week’s readings, today’s First Reading again presents protests that God isn’t fair. Why does He punish with death one who begins in virtue but falls into iniquity, while granting life to the wicked one who turns from sin?

This is the question that Jesus takes up in the parable in today’s Gospel.

The first son represents the most heinous sinners of Jesus’ day—tax collectors and prostitutes—who by their sin at first refused to serve in the Lord’s vineyard, the kingdom. At the preaching of John the Baptist, they repented and did what was right and just. The second son represents Israel’s leaders—who said they would serve God in the vineyard, but refused to believe John when he told them they must produce good fruits as evidence of their repentance (see Matthew 3:8).

Once again, this week’s readings invite us to ponder the unfathomable ways of God’s justice and mercy. He teaches His ways only to the humble, as we sing in today’s Psalm. And in the Epistle today, Paul presents Jesus as the model of that humility by which we come to know life’s true path.

Paul sings a beautiful hymn to the Incarnation. Unlike Adam, the first man, who in his pride grasped at being God, the New Adam, Jesus, humbled himself to become a slave, obedient even unto death on the cross (see Romans 5:14). In this He has shown sinners—each one of us—the way back to the Father. We can only come to God to serve in His vineyard, the Church, by having that same attitude as Christ.

This is what Israel’s leaders lacked. In their vainglory, they presumed their superiority—that they had no further need to hear God’s Word or listen to God’s servants.

But this is the way to death, as God tells Ezekiel today. We are always to be emptying ourselves, seeking forgiveness for our sins and frailties, confessing on bended knee that He is Lord, to the glory of the Father.

Direct download: Breaking_the_Bread_26th_Sunday_Reflection.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Lecturas:
Ezequiel 18, 25–28
Salmo 25, 4–9
Filipenses 2, 1–11
Mateo 21, 28–32

Haciendo eco de las quejas escuchadas en las lecturas de la semana pasada, la primera lectura de hoy también presenta reclamos que afirman que Dios no es justo. ¿Por qué castiga con la muerte a un virtuoso que cae en la iniquidad, mientras asegura la vida al débil que se convierte del pecado?

Esta es la pregunta que Jesús trae a cuento en la parábola del Evangelio de hoy.

El primer hijo representa a los más empedernidos pecadores de la época -publicanos y prostitutas-, que al principio, por su pecado, se resisten a servir en la viña del Señor, el reino. Ellos, con la predicación de Juan el Bautista, se arrepintieron he hicieron lo justo y correcto. El segundo hijo representa a los líderes de Israel, quienes dijeron que servirían a Dios en la viña, pero se negaron a creerle a Juan cuando les dijo que debían producir frutos como prueba de su arrepentimiento (cf. Mt 3,8).

Nuevamente, las lecturas de esta semana nos invitan a ponderar los insondables caminos de la justicia y la misericordia de Dios. Él enseña sus caminos sólo a los humildes, como cantamos en el salmo de este día. Y en la epístola de hoy San Pablo presenta a Jesús como el modelo de esa humildad por la cual llegamos a conocer la verdadera senda de la vida.

San Pablo canta un bello himno a la Encarnación. A diferencia de Adán, el primer hombre que en su orgullo pretendió ser Dios, Jesús, el Nuevo Adán, se humilló a sí mismo hasta hacerse esclavo, obediente incluso hasta la muerte en la cruz (cf. Rm 5,14). Por esto nos ha mostrado a cada uno de nosotros, pecadores, el camino del retorno al Padre. Sólo podemos venir a Dios para servir en su viña, la Iglesia, si tenemos la misma actitud de Cristo.

Los líderes de Israel carecieron de ella. En su vanagloria, presumieron su superioridad, asumiendo que ya no tenían necesidad de escuchar a los servidores de Dios ni su Palabra.

Pero ese es el camino de la muerte, como Dios le dice hoy a Ezequiel. Hemos de vaciarnos continuamente, buscando el perdón por nuestros pecados y fragilidades y confesando, con las rodillas dobladas, que Él es el Señor para la gloria del Padre.

Direct download: A_26_Ordinary_Spn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Readings:
Sirach 27:30–28:7
Psalm 103:1–4, 9–12
Romans 14:7–9
Matthew 18:21–35

Mercy and forgiveness should be at the heart of the Christian life.

Yet, as today’s First Reading wisely reminds us, often we cherish our wrath, nourish our anger, refuse mercy to those who have done us wrong. Jesus, too, strikes close to home in today’s Gospel with His realistic portrayal of the wicked servant who won’t forgive a fellow servant’s debt, even though his own slate has just been wiped clean by their master.

It can’t be this way in the kingdom, the Church. In the Old Testament, seven is frequently a number associated with mercy and the forgiveness of sins. The just man sins seven times daily; there is a sevenfold sprinking of blood for atonement of sins (see Proverbs 24:6; Leviticus 16). But Jesus tells Peter today that we must forgive not seven times, but seventy times seven times. That means: every time.

We are to be merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful (see Luke 6:36; Matthew 5:48). But why? Why does Jesus repeatedly warn that we can’t expect forgiveness for our trespasses unless we’re willing to forgive others their trespasses against us?

Because, as Paul reminds us in today’s Epistle, we are the Lord’s. Each of us has been purchased by the blood of Christ shed for us on the Cross (see Revelation 5:9). As we sing in today’s Psalm, though we deserved to die for our sins, He doesn’t deal with us according to our crimes. The mercy and forgiveness we show to others should be the heartfelt expression of our gratitude for the mercy and forgiveness shown to us.

This is why we should remember our last days, set our enmities aside, and stop judging others. We know that one day we will stand before the judgment seat and give account for what we’ve done with the new life given to us by Christ (see Romans 14:10, 12).

So we forgive each other from the heart, overlook each other’s faults, and await the crown of His kindness and compassion.

Direct download: A_24_Ordinary.mp3
Category:Sunday Bible Reflections -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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