The constant endeavour we make to
encounter God. We seek him in prayer, in
worship, in our daily lives. We struggle to
understand the nature of God and where he is in
all of this. At times we feel so far from
knowing God, or how to find the Kingdom of
Heaven, we poor banished children of Eve.
In the dedicated lives of the religious, they
devote many hours to encountering God.
When I worked at the convent home for the
elderly, in Aberdeen I glimpsed this first hand.
The sisters attending prayers in the church, to
say the Divine Office, and our Sister would lead
daily rosary devotions with the catholic
residents. In the religious life, there is the
constant devotion and search for God, and the
daily remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice
which Jesus made with his life, to save mankind
– a ransom.
In the joyful mystery of the rosary – the
presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the prayers
include the passage from Luke's Gospel, the Song
of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis. As Simeon takes
Jesus into his arms he praises God and declares
that Jesus is the Messiah, but that he will
suffer for the many. Simeon's words resonate
with today's Old Testament reading from Isaiah
In Isaiah, we hear of the coming of the Messiah
– to be the saviour of the people of Israel and
suffering servant. He is compared to the
sacrificial lamb. We are told:
By a perversion of justice he was taken away...
….he was cut off from the
land of the living, stricken for the
transgression of my people'
Isaiah's prophecy defies the hopes the Jewish
people have of a leader of temporal power and
strength. Likewise, in Mark's Gospel, the
disciples James and John misunderstand the
nature of Jesus and what it means to be his
followers. They too believe that there will be
earthly power bestowed by Jesus upon his
followers. Jesus warns them that this is not the
nature of the power he offers. It is a bitter
cup of suffering – giving his life as a ransom
for many, and there is no equivocation in this.
A little later, In chapter 12 of Mark, Jesus
tells the parable of the wicked tenants – who
try to seize the vineyard by murderous force,
against the owner's servants and son. Jesus
warns the chief priests, the scribes and the
elders at the Temple, of what will happen to the
wicked tenants – that the owner will destroy
them and give the vineyard to others. This is at
once a warning to the Jewish leaders and a
further indication of the treachery which Jesus
The parable of the wicked tenants is also a
recognisable reference to Isaiah, Chapter 5,
which uses a vineyard metaphor to talk about
In Isaiah, it is the combination of exploitation
of the poor and wayward living that results in
poor grape harvests within the vineyard.
Neglect of the people and the land.
When Jesus warns the Jewish leaders through
parables, he knows that they already know their
own failings, their falling out with God, since
the banishment from the garden – for it has
already been told to them through the prophets,
such as Isaiah. In the Jewish tradition,
the leaders would outwardly follow the law of
Moses, and to make up for any transgressions,
there would be the practice of animal
sacrifice. This to take the burden of sin
from the person, making the sacrifice.
Jesus, in his ultimate self-sacrifice upon the
cross transcends the old traditions and customs
of Jewish religion.
The parable of the wicked tenants
is a warning too of the corrupting nature of
power. Some interpretrations of the story
understand the tenants to be the oppressed
peasants and the vineyard owner to be a mere
man, who exploits the poor. We certainly
know that earthly power corrupts and how
violence begets violence.
The clear message is that Jesus comes to save,
and he rejects all violence.
In this world today we know of and see and hear
much that is wicked, corrupt and wrong. It
is sometimes acts by individuals working in
isolation. At other times, it is a
systemic network of self-interests, and others
going along with the status quo either through
fear or apathy.
The call to prayer and reading of scripture is a
wake up call. The soul and the
consciousness can then turn towards God.
But this cannot be done in a vacuum. The
life of prayer and the spirit is here on the
earth. As followers of Jesus, we do not
know what demands may be made of us, to live as
true Christians. In prayer and reading
scripture, we may draw strength. But we
must wait upon God for him to make known what
sacrifice is asked of us.