Today’s meeting was a study group in which we reviewed the format and reasons for our weekly gatherings, as we were blessed to have two newer groups members join us. We discussed the fact that our “Encounters With Christ” are not a typical bible study, as some may think, but it is better defined as an “Apostolic Spring board” for meeting Christ, letting him work in our hearts, discuss things we see happening in the world through the eyes of faith, and resolve to go forward in our lives with a spiritual and measurable action. When we meet again, we check in with each other and make sure we are being mindful of keeping our efforts in motion. Spiritually, it is essential that we bring our authentic self, our efforts and our relationship with Christ. He always makes something amazing out of our earnest search for him.
This coming Saturday is our monthly retreat, and because we will spend hours in mass and meditation on some gospel passages and formation talks from a priest, we use our normal time to form ourselves as a group on some practical points, and did not discuss a case today. We did, however, take a moment to delve into the upcoming Sunday’s gospel.
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 men 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 fruits.”
As a group, we all felt that initially some of the parables can be difficult to understand, and we were moved by the injustice of what is happening to the vineyard owner in this story. It is upsetting that these thieves have just taken a hold of the land and beat or destroed anyone who tried to stop them. When the son comes along, it stirs a greater sense of injustice in our hearts.
- The way the Tenants treat the servants is so disturbing to our sense of justice; what makes them think they can get away with treating others this way, and what makes them think they will gain anything by killing the heir? It makes me wonder how our faulty human logic is misguiding our own thoughts and actions.
- When I read this parable on behalf of the landowner I get so upset at the nerve of the tenants and all of the horrible things they do. Killing His son? It seems so outrageous. Then I remember what God has done for us. Generation after generation we have been the tenants. Rejecting Him and His servants (Bar 1:15-22) and finally, rejecting and killing His only son, Our Lord Jesus, and how tremendously merciful God, Our Father, has been with us through the ages. How great His love must be for us for Him to endure so much offense from our unfaithful ways. God’s mercy is enduring and generous.
- When I think about how the tenants have a plan to gain the inheritance of the son by killing him and taking it, I remember what Jesus has done for us and how he willingly died for our sins; we didn’t have to steal our inheritance from him, it was given to us freely, out of love. It makes me wonder in what ways, even little ways every day, I am “killing the son” with my own sins. In other words, when I turn away from God in sin, even small ones, I am acting like these tenants.
- God’s mercy is the overwhelming thing that stands out in this parable.
When we meet Jesus in the gospels in prayer (Lectio Divina), we are placing ourselves in the scene with him and become a character in the scene or a bystander, as we envision the scene playing out. Praying with the gospels in this way has ancient origins, and was widely practiced by the saints, and can take practice and patience. I think the hardest part of this kind of prayer is just being still enough to clear your mind of all that is going on in your world. It requires a quieting of your soul, and some serious listening.
In discussing the difference between a regular bible study and Encountering Christ in the gospel, our lesson today was through an analogy of someone who is studying a great work of art. Like a bible study, you may study a work of art in a gallery and get the background story of the artist, when it was created, what the cultural influences were, and what medium and form were used by the artist. This may help you understand the peice of art more completely. With the bible study, you may break down languages and interpretations, cultural influences and practices, and to what audience and circumstances in which the scripture was written. Like the art, you understand important elements more fully. Although all of these concepts are important and relevant, it is a different practice altogether than meeting the person of Christ in the living word and listening to what speaks to you in that meeting.
The layers of Encountering Christ in the gospels are endless, and the meanings can change by the day, but the effects are everlasting spring board for living a life of faith.