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Lectio Divina - 27th Sunday of the Year


Homeless Jesus

Peter Howson

Born in London

Born 27th March 1958



Peter Howson was born in London of Scottish parents and moved with his family to Prestwick, Ayrshire, when he was four. His grandmother gave him a small set of oil paints when he was six. He was raised in a religious family and the first ever painting he did was a Crucifixion, when he was 6 years old. At school he was bullied but found solace in art,

He trained at Glasgow School of Art but was surprised to fail the first year and forced to repeat.

He trained in the army at Glencorse Barracks near Edinburgh. After less than a year in the army he re-enrolled in Glasgow School of Art in 1979 under a Hospitalfield Scholarship, but left again in 1981 without graduating.

In 1993, he was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum of London, to be the official war artist for the Bosnian War. Here he produced some of his most shocking and controversial work detailing the atrocities which were taking place at the time,

He was the official Kosovo War artist for the London Times. In 1996 the University of Strathclyde awarded him a Doctor of Letters. In 1999 he returned to Bosnia both to counter public opinion regarding his earlier comments and to purge his own personal demons encountered on his first visit. The second period affected him deeply, seeing many atrocities.

In more recent years his work has exhibited strong religious themes which some say is linked to the treatment of his alcoholism and drug addiction at the Castle Craig Hospital in Peebles in 2000, after which he converted to Christianity.



Lectio

Matthew 21, 33-43

The Parable of the Tenants

33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. 35 The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance’. 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? 41 ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end’, they replied, ‘and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time’. 42 Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes’. 43 Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit”.

Meditatio

Introduction

This Sunday’s Gospel story begins in a similar way to Isaiah’s song of the vineyard: “A landowner planted a vineyard, surrounded it with a wall, dug a wine press and built a tower[1]. In the parable of Jesus, the decisive moment happens when the owner of the vineyard entrusts it to his labourers and leaves. The loyalty of the labourers is put to the test: they have been entrusted with the vineyard; they must harvest the grapes and then hand the harvest over to the owner. The Gospel passage invites us to reflect on our responsibilities and gifts that we have received. We are possessive, we think that we are the owners, and lose sight of the fact that the only owner is the Lord.

The Lord's vineyard in the house of his people[2]

The message of the parable of the vineyard about an absentee landlord and his not-so-good tenants would have made sense to his audience. The hills of Galilee were lined with numerous vineyards, and it was quite common for owners to let out their estates to tenents. Many did it for the sole purpose of collecting rent.


This parable is all about the Kingdom of God.

Why did Jesus' story about wicked tenants cause offense to the scribes and Pharisees? Because it contained both a prophetic message and a warning. Isaiah had spoken of the house of Israel as "the vineyard that is the nation of Israel"[3]. Jesus’ listeners would have likely understood this parable as referring to God's dealing with a stubborn and rebellious nation.




This parable speaks to us today[4]

This parable richly conveys some important truths about God and the way He deals with his people. First, it tells us of God's generosity and trust. The vineyard is well equipped with everything the tenants need. The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of the tenants. Secondly, God likewise trusts us enough to give us freedom to run life as we choose. It also tells us of God’s patience and justice. Not once, but many times he forgives the tenants their debts. However, while the tenants take advantage of the owner’s patience, his judgment and justice prevail in the end.

This parable is the Gift of the kingdom

Jesus foretold both his death on the cross and his ultimate triumph. Jesus knew he would be rejected and put to death, but he also knew that it would not be the end. After rejection would come the glory of his resurrection from the grave and his ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven. The Lord blesses us today with the gift of his kingdom; a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. In addition, he promised that we would bear much fruit if we abide in him (John 15:1-11). He entrusts his gifts and grace to each one of us and he gives us work to do in his vineyard: the body of Christ in our midst today. He promises that our labour for him will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end[5]. We can expect trials and even persecution. However, in the end we will rejoice. The call we received is to follow and serve the Lord Jesus with joyful hope and confidence in the victory He has won for us. We have the gift of an abundant new life in the Holy Spirit.


This parable avoids anti-Semitism

It is important to understand in this parable, that the vinedressers are clearly, identified with the leaders of the people. Christians though must reject all anti-Semitism, because it is true that the final decision to condemn Jesus was in the hands of "leaders" who were blind to see and unable to accept the prophetic words referring to Jesus as the son of God[6] and about God and his Kingdom.


Conclusion

We arrived to the end with very significant conclusions for now and for all times. First, ‘religion’ that kills or allows wars in the name of God is not exactly ‘religion’. Then, this is a parable we have to understand clearly and forcefully against any religious fundamentalism that so often threatens peoples and cultures. Secondly, no apologetics can be found capable of defending “God", with the death of others, because in all those killed, ‘God himself is dying’Jesus, the owner of the vineyard, with his death has become the "cornerstone”[7] of a new religion of love and peace. We are members of this new religion.


Oratio

Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have given us - for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us. O most merciful redeemer, friend, and brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, for your own sake.


Psalm 80:8-21

“You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and plant it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches; it sent out its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the River.

Why then have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit? The boar from the forest ravages it, and all that move in the field feed on it. Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock which your right hand planted. They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance! But let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name!

Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! let your face shine, that we may be saved!”

CONTEMPLATIO

· Who owns the vines, the vineyard owner or the Lord?

o How would you describe your vineyard: family, job, voluntary work or that part of the kingdom of God entrusted to you?

o How do you use the freedom, the responsibility Christ gives you to manage your ‘vineyard’, is Christ the focus?

· Christ is the keystone, holding sense together, What happens if the keystone is removed?

o “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,”

WB Yeats


“He entrusts his gifts and grace to each one of us and he gives us work to do in his vineyard: the body of Christ in our midst today. He promises that our labour for him will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end”


“Our infinite sadness can only be redeemed by an infinite love” Pope Francis


“Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs, or anything else -God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a life full of thorns and weeds, also there is space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust in God”. Pope Francis


Jesus the only Lord:


o “Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” Isaiah 9:5

[1] Isaiah 5:2 [2] Isaiah 5:3-4: “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? [3] Isaiah 5:7 [4] Mark 4:33With many such parables He was speaking the word to them, so far as they were able to hear it.” [5] 1Corinthians 15:58 [6] Psalm 2:7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree: He said to me, “You are my son; today I have become your father.” [7] Mathew 21,42 “The Stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…”


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