Readings: Genesis 37:3-4,12-13,17-28, ; Psalm 105; Matthew 21:33-43,45-46
Joseph, the son of Jacob, is one of the Old Testament personalities whose experience becomes a figure or 'type' of the experience of Jesus. He was an innnocent person, betrayed by his brothers, and handed over to death. In the parable read today we hear of a son sent to tenants by the owner of a vineyard, thinking they will respect him. But he is killed by them.
The most interesting thing in the readings is the contrast between the people's answer to Jesus' question and his own answer to it. The question is, 'what will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants?' The people say two things: he will put the wretches to a miserable death, and he will hand over the vineyard to other tenants who will make it fruitful for him.
Jesus also says two things. The second part of his answer is more or less the same as the second part of the people's answer: the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce fruit. But look at the first part of Jesus' answer. There is no reference to any miserable death, to the destruction of the wretches. Instead he quotes Psalm 118, 'the stone rejected by the builders has become the corner stone, the Lord's doing, marvellous in our eyes'.
There is a world of a difference between the first part of the people's answer and the first part of Jesus' answer. In fact two completely different understandings of God are presented. Jesus quotes a passage that is central to the Easter preaching of the Church: after Easter we will hear this passage again and again, the stone rejected has become the keystone. This is the response of the Father of Jesus to the killing of the Son. The 'owner of the vineyard' in the parable reflects a pagan understanding of God: he is just a more powerful human capable of greater destruction but moved by the same sentiments, the same logic of revenge, a powerful participant in the cycle of violence that haunts the world.
But Jesus came to reveal the true God to us, God who is alive, all powerful and eternal, Creator of all things and Redeemer of all. This God is free of the sentiments that determine our reactions. God is free of the logic that governs our relationships. His anger he expresses not in death and destruction but in resurrection and new creation.
We find it easier to live with the pagan gods. Their nature and action is more easily grasped by us because they are just overgrown men (or women). Often this is the kind of god we are living with even when we use the terminology of Christian faith. But the true God is something else, radically other than all this, with a nature and an action that are both simply described as 'love'. Jesus opens a window for us through which we can glimpse already this new God whom he has come to teach us about. God the Father of Jesus expresses infinitely more powerfully his profound anger at the death of His Son, giving vent to His anger not through further destruction of creation, but through resurrection, through a new creation.