Jgs 9:6-15; Ps 21:2-6; Mt 20:1-16
Jotham cried out in a loud voice the story of the danger of one who wants to be king. The Lord Jesus tells the story of the landowner whose generosity challenges everything we think is fair and just. The last is first and the first is last in the divine economy of the Kingdom of God. No one can outdo the Lord in his generosity. Here at the banquet feast of the Lamb we receive more than we bargained for.
Unlike his father Gideon, who refused to be king, Abimelech wanted to be a king for all the wrong reasons. He wanted to be king in a nation who did not have any king except the Lord God Almighty. To insure his position Abimelech killed all 70 of his brothers except one; the survivor, Jotham, arises to warn the people about the danger of someone who wants to be king. This danger becomes clear in his story. The olive tree, the fig tree, the grape vine, all refused the attraction of power. They stayed planted in good soil and produced fruit in due season as the Creator had designed. These good trees were not interested in any presumptuous acts of self-aggrandizement. The virtuous judges of Israel delighted in the True King of Israel, and they did not want to be king. This son of Gideon betrays his father’s memory, and in Jotham’s story Abimelech entices the children of Israel with the promise of a refuge in the king’s shadow. However, what buckthorn can provide any shade? Jotham, a true son of Gideon, tries to warn his fellow citizens to beware of the fire of Abimelech’s ambition that had already devoured his brothers. This unholy fire reveals the danger of the human desire for power and control. Eventually, this greedy fire does destroy the citizens of Shechem. The Lord God quenches this fire in the death of Abimelech who was the king killed by a woman. This woman, our Queen Mother, we see in the visions of Revelation crushing the head of The Serpent; Mary, our Queen, by her obedience and love utterly destroy the king of rebellion and hate.
The Lord Jesus, our True King, warns us about the fire of envy that remains below the surface of all who labor in the vineyard. Even among those who know the usual daily wage and have given gladly to the fruitful harvest of the Kingdom of God, yes, even citizens of heaven and members of the church struggle with the fire of envy. It is all too painful to see those much younger in the community being promoted and honored ahead of you. Where’s the justice? How can someone be more valued and rewarded when someone else has struggled longer and harder in the full heat of the day? Where is the justice? Envy of others is so vicious because not only does it want what others have, but also it doesn’t want others to enjoy what they have. Envy takes away any pleasure in others’ successes and finds pleasure only in others’ miseries. These mysteries of the Kingdom of God we ponder and admire. We seek all the ripe fruit of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Indeed we long to see one who delights in the generosity of the True King. For this virtue our heart hungers and thirsts, and we are satisfied in the celebration of these Eucharistic Mysteries.