Gospel of Matthew 21:33–43
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated 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 one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched tenants to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:
”The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?
Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
In this Gospel, Jesus draws our attention away from the vortex of escalating greed and violence portrayed in this gospel passage. There is no fruit there; one will not find God there.
Jesus final sentence in this Gospel strikes me, with his focus on fruit and the kingdom of God. From St. Paul, we hear that the fruit of the Spirit is evidence of God. Love, peace, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are the gifts of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-25) and evidence of the ‘kingdom of God’. Jesus’ citation of Psalm 118:22-23 is a proclamation of himself as the very ’cornerstone’ of this new structure, ‘the kingdom of God’. We can question any structure that is not fruitful of the Spirit, especially structures of the church, just as Jesus was doing by challenging these leaders.
Today the call is just as urgent as when this Gospel was written. It seems that we have arrived at a pivotal point in history where we are surrounded by greed, violence and questionable leadership. I believe it is vital that we listen for the Spirit and seek out our ‘cornerstone’ that is Jesus and lean into our relationship with him, as we seek to build community.
For Mary Ward, Jesus was the cornerstone of her life. Tradition has it that ‘Jesus’ was the first as well as the last name she uttered in life.
In my prayer, I ponder the gifts of the spirit in my life. Following in the footsteps of Mary Ward and companions, I ask for the grace to become more aware of my ‘cornerstone’ Jesus.