Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

Text in red, if any, are my additions.

33. Hear ye another parable. There was a man an householder, who planted a vineyard, and made a hedge round about it, and dug in it a press, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a strange country.
34. And when the time of the fruits drew nigh, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits thereof.
35. And the husbandmen laying hands on his servants, beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
36. Again he sent other servants more than the former; and they did to them in like manner.
37. And last of all he sent to them his son, saying: They will reverence my son.
38. But the husbandmen, seeing the son, said among themselves: This is the heir; come let us kill him, and we shall have his inheritance.
39. And taking him, they cast him forth out of the vineyard, and killed him.
40. When therefore the lord of the vineyard shall come, what will he do to those husbandmen?
41. They say to him: He will bring those evil men to an evil end; and will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen that shall render him the fruit in due season.

In this parable Jesus assigns as the cause of the Jewish rejection not merely their past unwillingness to do penance, but also the coming crucifixion of Jesus. The comparison of the people to a vineyard is well known in the writings of the Old Testament (cf. Isa 5:2; Psalm 80:9; Deut 32:32; Isa 17:11; Jer 2:21; Ezek 15:1-6; Ezek 19:10; Hosea 10:1;; cf. Matt 20:1), so that the Pharisees could not misunderstand the parable; they really pronounced therefore their own condemnation.

The was a man who was a householder begins the enumerations of the innumerable benefits conferred on the Jewish people who are the choice plant of God as the vineyard is the choice property of man. He made a hedge round about it in order to guard it against the wild beasts that were wont to break into vineyards (Song of Songs 2:15; Ps 80:14); applied to the people the hedge signifies the Mosaic Law, or God’s special protection and providence, or the special protection of the guardian angels, or finally the Holy Land with its retirement from the world. Dug in it a press, consisting of an upper trough for pressing out the grapes and a lower receptacle for receiving the juice flowing from the upper part; applied to the Jews, it may signify their altar, or the prophets filled with the Spirit of God. And built a tower, to watch the crops and to furnish recreation; it represents in the parable Mount Sion, or the temple, or the excellence of the law, or the secure dwelling-place of the Jews. And let it out to husbandmen, who were to pay their rent in kind (cf. Mark 12:2); the husbandmen signify the priests and doctors, and in general the civil and religious superiors of the Jewish people. And went into a strange country may be regarded as a mere ornament of the parable, though it may indicate that after establishing the Synagogue, God did not so often appear visibly to his people, or it may denote the patient longanimity of of God towards his people, or again it may typify the liberty God left the husbandmen to cultivate the vineyard according to their own will. That they might receive the fruits thereof, i.e., the part of the fruit belonging to the lord according to the contract (cf. Mark 12:2; Luke 20:10). The husbandmen laying hands on his servants, beat one, e.g., Jeremiah, killed another, e.g., Zechariah between the temple and the altar (Acts 7:52; Heb 11). Again he sent other servants shows the loving patience of the householder (Jer 7:25; Jer 11:7; Jer 25:4; Jer 26:5; Jer 29:19; Jer 44:4; Hosea 6:5; Amos 2:1; etc.).  And last of all he sent to them his son shows the height of his love and patience. Let us kill him corresponds accurately with the actions and words of the Jewish authorities as related by John 11:47-50.

Thus far Jesus has described what had actually occurred before he spoke; now he begins to prophecy: they cast him forth out of the vineyard, either crucifying him outside the city walls (Heb 13:12), or by excommunicating him into the hands of the Gentiles. (Note: the image of casting forth was used to refer to execution, for this act took place outside of the city [1 Kings 21:8-13; Luke 4:29; Acts 7:58]. The term was also sometimes used as referring to expulsion from the community [John 9:22; John 9:34]). They say to him, considering as yet the Romans as the husbandmen, themselves as the prophets, and the people of Israel as the son (cf. Exodus 4:22): He will bring those evil men to a bad end, as it happened in the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen that shall render him the fruit in due season, as happened iin the appointment of the apostles and representatives of the Church (cf. Matt 10:2 ff., Matt 16:18; Matt 28:18). It was most fit that the high priests and the Pharisees should thus pronounce their own condemnation. According to the second and third gospel, the Sanhedrists received this judgment from the lips of Jesus, and according to St Luke, the rejected it with the words God forbid (Luke 20:16).

42. Jesus saith to them: Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? By the Lord this hath been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes.
43. Therefore I say to you, that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof.

What has thus far been inculcated by the way of parable is now confirmed by reference to the Old Testament prophecy (Psalm 118:22): The stone which the builders, the authorities of the Synagogue, rejected, the same is become the head of the corner, thus giving firmness and unity to the whole building, as Christ is the foundation and the unifying principle of the Church. By the Lord this has been done, requiring his omnipotent power; this does not refer to corner, or to the head of the corner, but to the whole preceding event, since it must be so understood in the Hebrew text of the psalm. To men, indeed, it seems strange that when the long-expected Messiah finally came, he was rejected and maltreated by those very persons whom he came to save and exalt (Isaiah 28:16; Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 2:4-8). Then follows the announcement of the punishment who are now clearly identified with the Sanhedrists: first, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, so that they (i.e., the Sanhedrists and their supporters) will no longer share no longer be the chosen people, and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof (cf. Matt 3:9; Matt 8:11-12; Matt 12:41-45; Gal 5:22; Eph 5:9; Rom 6:22).

45. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they knew that he spoke of them.
46. And seeking to lay hands on him, they feared the multitudes, because they held him as a prophet.

The effects of the parable are briefly stated by the evangelist : first, “they knew that he spoke of them”; secondly, they sought “to lay hands on him,” thus becoming worse instead of improving by the words of our Lord; thirdly, “they feared the multitudes,” so that here again it is mere self-love that keeps the Sanhedrists from destroying Jesus [cf. Albert Magnus]. The parable may be applied by way of accommodation to the priests and prelates of the Church, and to every individual who has the care of the vineyard of his soul [cf. Origen, Ambrose Salmeron Lapide, Jansenus].

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Catholic, Notes on Matthew and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordainry Time, Year A | stjoeofoblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s