Gn 37:3,4,12,13a,17b-28a; Ps 105:16-21; Mt 21:33-43,45-46
Only the LORD has pure motives. They are sometimes hidden from our sight, but they are always pure. All through Lent we remember the marvels the LORD has done. He has done many great things, and He has always done them out of love, pure and simple love. When the famine covered Egypt and famine ruined the crops the LORD sustained them through his beloved son, Joseph, sold into slavery by his own brothers. Joseph was an object of lust for his master’s wife, and he was falsely accused of trying to rape her. Such false testimony from an upright and wealthy landowner’s wife weighed Joseph down with fetters, and he was bound with chains. While in prison this slave used his ability to interpret dreams to serve his fellow prisoners. Such generosity and power brought the attention of the king to this accused slave. He was released into the service of the king, and the word of the LORD proved him true. The Pharaoh saw God’s hand upon Joseph and he made Joseph the one with power in his land of slavery. His careful planning saved the Egyptians and all the surrounding peoples, even his own family the Tribes of Israel. We remember such marvels, and our hearts are opened to the next moment of mercy from the hand of the Living God. The Father’s greatest marvel is to send us his only begotten son, the Lord Christ. This is the one who was crucified by wretched men, by all sinners in every generation. It is this death of the faithful and obedient Son of God that liberates us from slavery to sin. This is the Paschal Mystery we spend our Lent preparing to celebrate.
The sons of Israel had mixed motives as they noticed their brother, Joseph, approaching from a distance. Most of all they hated Joseph because he was loved best of all among the sons of Israel. Joseph was given a long tunic to reveal his father’s love and to protect him in the wilderness. However, his older brothers recognized the long tunic from a distance and planned to kill Joseph before he arrived at the camp in Dothan. Even though his brother Reuben tried to protect him the others had no mercy on Joseph, they sold him into slavery to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. The brothers were enslaved to jealousy and envy. They resented the love shown to their younger brother, and they wanted their father to show them such love. They also hated Joseph because he took delight in his gifts from Israel and from the Father Almighty who had given him the gift of dreams and the interpretation of dreams. Such a favored son and a beloved child, full of grace and glory, was a real threat to his brothers. They wanted to end the threat—they wanted to kill their brother. However, the LORD protected Joseph longer than any tunic protected him. The LORD saved him from false accusations and raised him to the trust of the Pharaoh. His gift of interpretation of dreams enabled Egypt to prepare and survive a great famine upon the earth. The long tunic from Israel revealed his father’s love; the power of dream interpretation revealed the Father’s love. Both gifts disturbed his siblings and ended in his being sold into slavery. The New Joseph, Jesus the Christ, became a slave so that we could be liberated from our slavery. The motives of those who killed the New Joseph were similar to the motives of those who killed the First Joseph. Blessed be the Name of the LORD who continues to save us from the hidden and destructive motives of our hearts.
The Lord Jesus had more to say to the chief priests and the elders. He had another parable to tell them. He used stories to hold up a mirror for his enemies to discover the motives of their hearts and to repent. In the parable of the Tenant Farmers the Lord Jesus, the New Joseph, reveals the motives of the tenants, the chief priests and the elders, who wanted to kill even the son whom the Father sent to them. The Tenant Farmers were jealous and envious of the heir, the son of the Father. They wanted to kill him so that they could acquire his inheritance. After all, they worked in the vineyard they should own the means of production too and the entire fruits of their labor. The chief priests and the elders felt entitled to the power of the Kingdom of God. They wanted to control the economy of salvation and maintain the boundaries between God and the People. They liked their great curtain, that filled the space between the ceiling and the floor and that hid the holy of holies from the eyes of most men and women. After all, they were only being obedient to the tradition that created a sense of the holy by distinguishing, judging and dividing the world up into pure and impure, the sacred and the secular, the holy and the profane. These religious leaders, the elder brothers of the Lord Jesus, were jealous and envious of his intimacy with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Such motivations in the heart give birth to hatred and violence. This bears the fruit of sin–alienation from the God of the covenant and a new covenant being founded with a people who will work and produce in the vineyard. When we hear this parable each lent we know the Lord Jesus is speaking about us who are so filled with multiple and mixed motives—not just simple and pure love. When we look into the mirror of this parable and when we hear the teaching of the Prophet Jesus, then we turn from sin and believe the good news.