By the time of Jesus the Law had greatly expanded from the original ten commandments. One writer says that there were 613 actual Laws as well as 365 prohibitions (one for every day in the year) and 268 prescriptions (one for every bone in the body).
The Pharisees decide to trap Jesus. They have taken enough stick from him and now they decide it is pay back time.
Today the Church presents for our consideration the wonderful parable of the royal wedding banquet. This is also the time of year when we are thinking about the harvest. These two things fit quite well together because a great wedding banquet given by a king is certainly comparable to the bounty of nature at harvest time.
We have another vineyard in our Gospel reading this week, by my count that’s three Sundays in a row! I suppose vineyards were not only more numerous in Palestine but there they were considered to be a real sign of prosperity. And it is therefore quite natural that Jesus would use them to illustrate his teaching.
Some years ago when I was a prison chaplain I was talking to one of the inmates in our local women’s prison. She told me that she had been working on the streets and was HIV positive and also had Hepatitis C. It was addiction to drugs that had put her on the street and had kept her there for many years. It was probably the sharing of needles that caused her two illnesses.
The parable we have just heard, about the men labouring in the vineyard, is probably one of the most familiar of all the parables. Our sympathies spontaneously go out to the fellow who laboured all day and yet who receives the same salary as the one who laboured only for one hour. But even so we still realise that this parable is more about the generosity of God than about our perception of fairness.
One of the distinctive characteristics human beings have is the ability to reason, to think in a clear and logical fashion. Many experiments have been undertaken in attempts to prove that some of the higher primates also have this same ability, even if to a lesser extent, but the results of these enquiries are very questionable and can largely be put down to the performance of repetitive acts.
There are quite a few instructions for the Christian disciple in today’s readings. The Prophet Ezekiel tells us that the Lord appointed him as a sentry to the House of Israel. It was his task as a prophet to correct the wicked; to warn them of the consequences of their evil ways otherwise their destruction becomes his responsibility. As a prophet, Ezekiel’s task was to speak out and clearly explain the commands of the Lord. Paul is doing the same sort of thing in his Letter to the Romans; he tells them that they must obey all the commandments and love their neighbours.
Today we consider a text that is crucial to the Church’s understanding of itself. The words of Jesus addressed to Peter, ‘You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church.’ I suppose this is one of the most famous puns in the whole of history, Peter meaning rock. But that aside, the claims that the Church has made based on those few words are very great indeed. And they have provoked a good deal of criticism and have been an obstacle to many.
Today in our liturgy we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. While this doctrine was only formally defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950 it has been the constant belief of Catholics going back in antiquity. What the Pope effectively did in 1950 was to confirm this long-held belief and give it a special feast day 15th August. Incidentally it is also a feast we share with the Orthodox Churches who call it the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket