Ss. Perpetua and Felicity
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatula
Jesus publicly humiliates the priests and scribes by demanding that they either accept or reject that he is the Son of the Father, a revelation announced by the Holy Spirit when John baptized him in the Jordan. Afraid that they will lose their own authority or anger the crowd that follows Jesus, the elders calculate a cowardly response to his challenge and answer, “We don't know.” Because of their cowardice, Jesus refuses to reveal to them that he is the Messiah. Instead, he tells them a parable meant to unsettle their comfortable assumptions about how the Father works among His people. The Parable of the Tenants is a retelling of the history of the Jewish people and their relationship with God. Unflattering in its details, the parable exposes the infidelity of God's chosen people to the covenant. It concludes with the death of those who murder the owner's son and the vineyard going to others as their inheritance. Jesus quotes Psalm 118, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The priests and scribes know that the parable is addressed to them. Fearing that the crowd might realize this as well, “they left him and went away.” Thinking back to the gospel reading from yesterday—a wise man builds his house on solid rock not sand—what can we make of the notion that Jesus is the cornerstone that the builders rejected?
The other gospel writers and the tradition of the Church understand the cornerstone to be Christ, and more specifically, his resurrection. Rejecting the truth of the resurrection cuts a well-woven thread in the whole clothe of the gospel. Denial of the resurrection is a denial of Christ's sacrificial death on the cross. Denial of his sacrificial death is a denial of the efficacy of his suffering. Denial of his efficacious suffering is a denial of his birth to the virgin, Mary. His incarnation as the Son of God. His promised advent. And on back to his presence at the moment of creation and his divinity as the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. To paraphrase Paul, “If Christ did not rise from the dead, then all we believe and do in his name is worthless.” The Parable of the Tenants is both a history of God's people rejecting the cornerstone of Christ's resurrection and a warning to those of us who do believe but do so at a nervous distance from the consequences of believing.
Let's cut the point as sharp as we can: if you believe the resurrection of Christ to be true, what difference does this belief make in your life? How do you behave differently? Think differently? Can others watch you and see that you have accepted Christ's resurrection as the cornerstone for building your house in the faith? The gospels repeatedly describe those who do not acknowledge the Sonship of Jesus as afraid, scared, anxious. They are very, very nervous about his claims to be the Son of God, b/c believing such a reckless claim would mean throwing themselves into a radical revolution that will change absolutely everything. Believing that Jesus is the Messiah will mark them as heretics in the temple, rebels against the Empire, and strangers in their own families. The sword Christ wields severs all bonds. His resurrection from the tomb remakes those bonds with the blood of a new covenant and a command to love that fulfills the whole of the Law.
If you believe that Christ rose from the dead, what difference does this belief make in your life? Can you point to this difference and give it a name? There's nothing to fear. Nothing to hide. You will lose everything for his sake and gain eternal life.
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