Exercising Authority

June 3, 2024

Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and companions, martyrs

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Readings for Monday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

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Jesus began to speak to the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and left on a journey. At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him, and sent him away empty-handed.” Mark 12:1–3

This was the first of “many” servants the owner of the vineyard sent to the tenants to obtain some of the produce of the vineyard. Some of the servants were mistreated, some beaten and others were killed. In the end, the owner sent his son. The tenants killed him, thinking that they would inherit the vineyard if the son were dead.

The context of this parable is important. Jesus had just entered Jerusalem for the beginning of the first Holy Week, which would ultimately end with His death and resurrection. The day before, Jesus had cleansed the Temple of the money changers. The chief priests, scribes and elders were outraged and began to plot His death. Jesus especially addressed this parable to them.

To understand this parable, you need to understand who represents whom. The religious leaders of Israel were the tenants, the vineyard was the Jewish nation, God the Father was the man who planted the vineyard, the many servants sent to gather the produce were the prophets of old, and Jesus was the Beloved Son Who was killed. The parable concludes by saying that the owner of the vineyard (God the Father) will put the tenants to death and give the vineyard to others. In other words, the scribes, Pharisees, chief priests and elders would soon have their religious authority taken away from them, and it would be given to the Apostles and their successors. This parable, therefore, presents us with a summary of the way the Church was formed. 

It’s helpful to note that the religious leaders of the time knew that Jesus addressed this parable to them, but they failed to heed the lesson. Ideally, if they were open to the gift of faith, they would have realized that they were attempting to steal the “vineyard” from God. They were attempting to control and manipulate the Kingdom of Israel, to make it into their own image, and to disregard the will of God Who established it.

This parable is especially important for anyone who exercises some form of holy authority. Parents exercise authority within the home. Bishops and priests exercise authority within the Church. And we all exercise a certain spiritual authority when we seek to fulfill our unique mission in life. The lesson from this parable is simple: don’t abuse your authority. Don’t exercise authority according to your own will; exercise it with humility only in accord with God’s will. Every leader, always and everywhere, must lead according to the mind and will of God. If they fail, they will suffer the consequences.

Reflect, today, upon any way that God has entrusted you with a spiritual duty to fulfill His mission in this world. When a duty of leadership is entrusted to a person, the leader is also entrusted with the spiritual authority to fulfill that duty in accord with the mind and will of God. This requires constant humility so that it is only God’s will that is fulfilled. Seek to exercise all authority in accord with the mind and will of God, and the vineyard entrusted to your care will bear an abundance of good fruit.

Loving Father, You have chosen to send me, as a tenant of Your Kingdom, to bear good fruit for eternal life. Please help me to always exercise the authority and duty entrusted to me with humility so that I will seek to fulfill Your will and Your will alone. Jesus, I trust in You.

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Saint of the Day –  Saints Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs—Memorial

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Featured image above: The Parable of the Vineyard (one of a set of twelve scenes from The Life of Christ) Creator:Jan Rombouts, via Wikimedia Commons