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27th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (Cycle A)

Readings:
Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:9, 12-16, 19-20
Philippians 4:6-9
Matthew 21:33-43

All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation).  CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).

The two Testaments reveal God's divine plan for mankind, and that is the reason we read and relive the events of salvation history contained in the Old and New Testaments in the Church's Liturgy.  The Catechism teaches that the Liturgy reveals the unfolding mystery of God's plan as we read the Old Testament in light of the New and the New Testament in light of the Old (CCC 1094-1095).

The Theme of this Sunday's Readings: The Vineyard of the Lord
The parable from the Book of Isaiah in the First Reading, the Psalm Reading, and the Gospel Reading represent the Old Covenant Church as God's "vineyard."  The vineyard is one of the symbolic images the Old Testament prophets used to represent the condition of God's relationship or lack of a relationship with His covenant people. 

The theme of Isaiah's parable, in the First Reading, symbolizes Israel as God's vineyard.  He chose the Israelites out of all the peoples of the earth and "planted" Israel as His choice vine in the soil of the Promised Land to produce the "good fruit" of righteousness as His witnesses to the Gentile world.  However, Israel became a vine that failed to produce "good fruit" despite all the protection and care God gave His "vineyard."  Israel only produced the "wild grapes" of rebellion and bloodshed of the weak, resulting in the failure of their covenant Yahweh, the God of Israel.  In judgment for Israel's covenant failures, Yahweh pronounces that His "vineyard'" will lose its divine protection.  He will allow a foreign power to trample and destroy His vineyard that failed to produce the "fruit" of righteousness to call His people to repentance and restoration.

The Responsorial Psalm is a lament from the tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel under attack by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC.  Using the familiar prophetic image of Israel as God's vineyard, the psalmist reminds Yahweh of when He brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and "transplanted" them into the fertile soil of the Promised Land of Canaan as a holy nation.  He implores God to look down from Heaven and protect the "vine" that He planted.

In the Second Reading, St. Paul is writing from his imprisonment, probably in Rome (Phil 1:12-14), to the Christian community in Philippi, a city in northeastern Greece.  St. Paul's message is one of encouragement.  He writes if we truly have faith and trust in Jesus, then we should have no anxiety about earthly struggles because we belong to Christ and are under His protection.  Instead of focusing on all the bad things that can happen in life, we should commit ourselves to prayer with the knowledge that the Lord is always near and continually providing the care of His divine providence.  St. Paul suggests that constant dialogue with God is a good way to prevent anxiety, to express our gratitude to God for all that is good, and to demonstrate our affection for Him. 

In the Gospel Reading, Jesus uses the same vineyard imagery as the First Reading and the Psalm.   In the Parable of the Tenants of the Vineyard, Jesus teaches about the failure of the leadership of Old Covenant Israel and the transition to the leadership of the New Covenant Kingdom of His Church.  In both Isaiah's parable of the vineyard and Jesus' parable, there are blessings for obedience to God's covenant, and there are divine judgments for covenant failures. 

Christians of the New Covenant Church are the branches grafted onto the "true vine" that is Jesus Christ (Jn 15:1-8), and God calls us to bear the "good fruit" of righteousness (Phil 1:11) for the sake of His kingdom and His Gospel message of salvation.  We do this by relying on Christ, being obedient to His commands, and in having confidence "that the peace of God that surpasses all understanding" will guard our "hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Second Reading).  We are faithful and obedient so we can produce the "good fruit" of deeds of righteousness for the sake of Christ's Kingdom.

The First Reading Isaiah 5:1-7 ~ The Parable of the Vineyard
1 Let me now sing of my friend, my friend's song concerning his vineyard.  My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; 2 he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press.  Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes. 3 Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?  Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?  5 Now, I will let you know what I mean to do to my vineyard: take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled!  6 Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed, but overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds not to send rain upon it.  7 The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!

God commissioned Isaiah as His prophet to the covenant people in the year that King Uzziah of Judah died (742 BC).  It was Isaiah's prophetic mission to call a covenant lawsuit against the Israelites as a covenant people who abandoned their obligations to the covenant they made with Yahweh at Mount Sinai (Ex 24:3-8).  They apostatized from their covenant with God by disobeying God's commandments, worshiped pagan gods, and oppressing the weak.  Isaiah was sent to warn them that God will use the powerful nation of Assyria as His instrument of divine judgment in calling Israel to repentance and back into communion with their divine Lord.

Isaiah's parable in 5:1-7 is a poem/song delivered by God's command at the beginning of his ministry.  The theme of the parable is Israel symbolized as God's cherished vine chosen over all other vines (other nations).  However, because of Israel's failure to produce the acceptable "fruit" of righteousness, the nation/vineyard must accept God's divine judgment.  It is a theme introduced earlier by the prophet Hosea (Hos 10:1).  It was one of the reoccurring symbolic images of the Old Testament prophets repeated by Isaiah (Is 3:14; 5:1-5; 27:2-5), Jeremiah (Jer 2:21; 5:10; 6:9; 12:10), Ezekiel (Ez 15:1-8; 17:3-10; 19:10-14) and by the inspired writer of the Psalms (Ps 80:8-18).  See the chart on the "Symbolic Images of the Prophets"

In the symbolic imagery of Israel as God's vineyard or vine, the prophets presented four different stages of Israel's relationship with God.  Notice that Isaiah presents the three parts of Israel's relationship with Yahweh in his parable of the vineyard:

 

Image Group Part I
Covenant relationship
Part II
Rebellion
Part III
Redemptive Judgment
Part IV
Restoration
Fulfilled
Vineyard
or
Fig tree
Well-tended vineyard/fruitful fig tree Vines grow wild/failure to produce fruit Weeds overgrow vineyard/ ruin and destruction Vines are replanted/
fruitfulness restored
[examples in Scripture] Isaiah 5:1-4a;
Ezekiel 19:10-11;
Jeremiah 24:4-7
Isaiah 5:4b;
Jeremiah 2:21;
Hosea 2:14;
Micah 7:1-4;
Joel 1:7, 11-12
Isaiah 5:3-6;
Ezekiel 15:6-8; 19:12-14;
Jeremiah 8:13; 24:1-10;
Nahum 3:12-15
John 15:1-2, 4-6

Isaiah begins by speaking about his "friend" who is the owner of the vineyard.  Isaiah's "friend" is Yahweh who has done everything possible to prepare a fruitful vineyard:

  1. He has planted on a fertile hillside that will get full sun.
  2. He spaded the ground and cleared it of stones.
  3. He planted the best vines.
  4. He built a watchtower so servants can protect the vineyard.
  5. He dug out an in-ground winepress to prepare for the fruitful harvest.

Each of these preparations is symbolic of what God did for Israel in the conquest of the Promised Land of Canaan:

He has planted in a fertile hillside that will get full sun. God chose the land of Canaan as the place where His covenant people could thrive.
He spaded the ground and cleared it of stones. God led Israel in the conquest of the pagan peoples and removed them from the land.
He planted the best vines. God allotted the land to the twelve tribes of Israel.
He built a watchtower so servants can protect the vineyard. God sent His prophets to watch over His people, and He protected His "vineyard" from their enemies.
He dug out an in-ground winepress* to prepare for the fruitful harvest.+ In God's divine plan for mankind's salvation, God gave Israel the mission as His agent to bring the Gentile nations to salvation.  It was a mission that was intended to bring about the great harvest of souls into heaven and the Last Judgment at the end of the Age of Man.

*In the Bible the "winepress" is frequently used as a symbol of obedience or judgment (Is 63:3-6; Jer 48:33; Lam 1:15; Hos 9:2; Joel 4:13; Rev 14:19-20; 19:15).
+ The "harvest" is frequently used as a symbol of judgment (Is 17:11; Jer 50:16; Joel 4:13; Mt 13:39).

Verse 2 identifies the Israelites as chosen out of all the peoples of the earth to be God's "choicest vines."  The Hebrew word for "choicest vines" in verse 2 is soreq; it is the name of a high-quality plant identified by the blood-red color of its fruit (also see Gen 49:11; Is 16:8 and Jer 2:21).  In liturgical worship at the Temple, wine from these grapes provided the wine libation ritual at God's holy altar, and because of its color, the wine was called the "blood of the grape" (see Sir 50:15).  In our liturgical worship, it is the "blood of the grape" that becomes the "Blood of Christ."

3 Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: 4 What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?  Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes? 
In verse 3, the speaker in the parable suddenly changes from Isaiah to God as Yahweh challenges Israel to tell Him, after all He had done for them, why they failed Him.

5 Now, I will let you know what I mean to do to my vineyard: take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled!  6 Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed, but overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds not to send rain upon it. 
In verses 5-7, God gives the terms of the covenant lawsuit and the redemptive judgments that He will inflict upon an unrepentant people.  These temporal judgments are the opposite of the temporal covenant blessings God promised for obedience in Leviticus 26:1-13 and Deuteronomy 28:1-14.  Instead, God's punishments recall the covenant judgments for disobedience promised in Leviticus 26:14-46 and Deuteronomy 28:15-69, including the judgment of invasion by foreign armies and exile (see Lev 26:32-35; Dt 28:49-52, 63-65).  The words "thorns and briers" recall the covenant judgment against Adam for his sin of rebellion against God's sovereignty over his life in Genesis 3:18.

7 The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his cherished plant; he looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!
So there is no misunderstanding of the parable, Isaiah identifies the "vineyard" as Israel.  In verse 7, the words "judgment," "bloodshed," "justice," and "outcry" in the Hebrew constitute a play on words. 

The prophecy of divine judgment took place in the second half of the 8th century BC, brought about by the collapse of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in the invasion of the armies of Assyria.  The end came in 722 BC with the defeat of Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, and the exile of the people into Assyrian lands to the east (2 Kng 17:1-6).  In 701 BC, the army of Assyrian King Sennacherib ravaged the nation of Judah.  The Assyrians besieged Jerusalem, the capital of the Southern Kingdom and Yahweh's holy city where His presence dwelt in the Temple (2 Kng 8:10-13; 2 Kng 18:13).  But good King Hezekiah called his people to repentance and turned to God, praying for His mercy and protection.  Yahweh delivered Judah from the Assyrians, and the nation had a reprieve as Isaiah foretold (2 Kng 19:20, 32-36).  However, after the death of King Hezekiah, Judah fell again into apostasy and again faced divine judgment.  The Babylonians conquered the Kingdom of Judah, and the people exiled in 587/6 BC, according to the warnings of God's prophets, using the same "vineyard" and "vine" imagery (i.e., Jeremiah 8:13; 24:1-10; Ez 19:10-14).

God is the Lord of history, and Assyria and Babylon were only instruments of judgment that God used to call His people to repentance and restoration.  However, while there was a temporary restoration with the return of the nation of Judah from the Babylonian exile in the 6th century BC, full restoration didn't take place until the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Jesus identified Himself as the "vine" and the new Israel of His faithful disciples as the "branches" that will bear fruit in His New Covenant Kingdom of the universal Church (Jn 15:1-2, 4-6).

Responsorial Psalm 80:9, 12-16, 19-20 ~ Israel is the Vineyard of the Lord
The response is: "The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel."

9 A vine from Egypt you transplanted; you drove away the nations and planted it. 
12 It put forth its foliage to the Sea, its shoots as far as the River.
Response:
13 Why have you broken down its walls, so that every passer-by plucks its fruit, 14 the boar from the forest lays it waste, and the beasts of the field feed upon it?
Response:
15 Once again, O LORD of hosts, look down from heaven, and see; 16 take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted, the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Response:
19 Then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name.  20 O LORD, God of hosts, restore us; if your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved.
Response:

This psalm is a lament from the northern tribes of Israel when they were under attack by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC.  The psalmist, using the familiar prophetic image of Israel as God's vineyard and chosen vine, reminds Yahweh of the time He brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and "transplanted" them in the Promised Land of Canaan.  At that time, He drove out all of Israel's enemies who were the land's former inhabitants (verse 9), and extended their dominion from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River, as God promised the Patriarch Abraham (verse 12; see Gen 15:18-21).

In verses 13-14, the psalmist asks the Lord why He has not protected Israel, His vineyard, as He had in the past but has now allowed Israel's enemies to trample and lay waste to the land and His people.  In verse 15, the psalmist implores the Lord to look down from heaven, to see their plight, and rescue His people.

16 take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted, the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
The vineyard and the vine are frequent metaphors for Israel in the Old and New Testaments (see for example Is 3:14; 5:1-5; 27:2-5; Jer 2:21; Ez 17:6-8; Hos 10:1; Mt 21:33 and the First Reading).  It is significant that the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament and the New Vulgate, and the NAB translate 16b: the son of man whom you yourself made strong.  The Jewish Masoretic text does not have this translation.  The Son of Man is Jesus' favorite title for Himself and points to His humanity as well as to His divinity as the "Son of Man" who is the divine Messiah of Daniel's vision in Daniel 7:13-14.  Many Bible scholars believe the Septuagint may be the original translation from the Hebrew text since Hosea 10:1 and 11:1 speak of Israel both as a vine and as "a son" God loved who He called out of Egypt (also see Ex 4:22).  The significance is of course that Jesus is the Son of Man (in His humanity) and the Son of God (in His divinity).  He fulfilled the prophetic text of Hosea 11:1 by being "called out of Egypt" as quoted in the "fulfillment statement" by Matthew in 2:15 when referring to the Holy Family's return from Egypt: He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord has said through the prophet might be fulfilled, "Out of Egypt I called my son."

In the Bible, the "Shepherd" imagery (in Ps 80:2), the covenant people as God's "vineyard," and a "vine" who is the Son of Man are symbolic images Jesus used in His teachings.  The symbolic images in this Psalms and its response related to the ministry of Jesus Christ:

  1. Jesus describes Himself as the "Good Shepherd" who guides His flock, the Church, and who is willing to lay down His life for His sheep (Jn 10:14-18).
  2. In His teaching, Jesus uses the imagery of the vineyard in His parables to symbolize the Old Covenant people of Israel (Mt 20:1-16; 21:28-32, 33-44; Mk 12:1-9; Lk 13:6-9; 20:9-16).
  3. Jesus identifies Himself as the "Son of Man" who is the "Son of God" and "the true vine" whose life flows out to the branches that are his disciples of the New Covenant people of God (Jn 15:1-10).

19 Then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name.  20 O LORD, God of hosts, restore us; if your face shine upon us, then we shall be saved.
The petition in verses 19-20 is answered in Jesus Christ who came to restore and heal Israel.  He transformed the faithful remnant of old Israel into the new Israel of the New Covenant Church of the universal Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  He came to bring new life and eternal blessings to God's people in the Sacrament of Christian baptism and the other sacraments.  The old temporal blessings of the Sinai Covenant were replaced by the eternal blessings that promise release from bondage to death, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Second Reading Philippians 4:6-9 ~ Put Aside Your Anxiety
6 Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  7 Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  9 Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.  Then the God of peace will be with you.

In reading these beautiful sentiments of St. Paul, it is important to recall that he is writing from his imprisonment, probably in Rome (Phil 1:12-14), to the Christian community in the city of Philippi, in northeastern Greece.  It was a city of some importance in the Roman province of Macedonia, and, according to Acts 16:9-40, it was on St. Paul's second missionary journey in circa 49 or 50 AD that he established the first Christian community in Europe at Philippi.

Despite St. Paul's dire circumstances, His message is if we truly have faith and trust in Jesus then we should have no anxiety about earthly struggles because we belong to Christ.  Instead of focusing on all the bad in life, we should commit ourselves to prayer because the Lord is always near us and always caring for us through His divine providence (Ps 119:151).  He is near to all who call upon Him (Ps 145:18).  He listens to our prayers, and He is ready to give us what we need to overcome our fear and difficulties.  The only thing He requires of us is that we confide in Him and give Him the trust of a little child.  St. Paul suggests that constant dialogue with God is a good way to prevent anxiety, to express our gratitude to God for all that is good, and to demonstrate our affection for God. 

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  9 Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me.  Then the God of peace will be with you.
The council of Vatican II highlighted the relevance of St. Paul's teaching in this passage in several of its documents.  In its document addressed to the ministry of priests, the council wrote concerning Paul's advice in this passage: "Such a pursuit assumes goodness of heart, sincerity, strength, and constancy of mind, careful attention to justice, courtesy to others..." (Vatican II, Presbyterorum ordinis, 3).  These are all pursuits and thoughts that are pleasing to God and which will bear the "fruit" of righteousness in the Kingdom of the Church.

The Gospel of Matthew 21:33-43 ~ The Parable of the Tenants of the Vineyard
Jesus said: "33 Hear another parable.  There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.  Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.  34 When the vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.  35 But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and third they stoned.  36 Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way.  37 Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, 'They will respect my son.'  38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, 'This is the heir.  Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.'  39 They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.  40 What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?"  41 They answered him, "He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times."  42 Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes'?  43 Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit." 

The "landlord" of the vineyard is the same word used for the "landlord" of the vineyard in the "Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard" in Matthew 20:1-16.  The translation of the Greek word oikodespotes [oy-kod-es-pot'-ace], is "the head of the family," or "master of the house."  Notice the repetition of threes in the parable: three times the Master sent out emissaries, and the three times tenants assaulted the Master's emissaries.  The first two times the emissaries are Master's servants, and the third time the Master sends His son.  Also notice it is the harvest season.  Jesus used parables set in the season of the harvest in the Kingdom Parables in Matthew Chapter 13.  The "harvest" in Scripture represents the gathering of souls in judgment (Mt 13:39b-43).

First century AD Jews would have found the situation in the parable familiar.  Landholders often rented out their property to tenant farmers who had to share a percentage of the profits from the harvest with the owner of the land.  Jesus uses the parable as an allegory predicting His death at the hands of the Jewish religious authorities and their eventual destruction and loss of authority as God's representatives to His people.

As noted in the First Reading, the vineyard is a symbolic image of Israel in covenant with Yahweh.  Since the chief priests and elders did not recognize Jesus as a legitimate prophet of God, they missed the comparison between Jesus' parable of the vineyard and the well-known parable of the vineyard told by prophet Isaiah in the First Reading (Is 5:1-7).  Some of the details of the parables are the same, each describing a well-tended vineyard with a hedge or wall to protect the vineyard from grazing animals, a watchtower as a lookout for marauding vandals, and a wine press for crushing the grapes to produce wine (see the chart below).

Jesus' Parable of the Vineyard
Matthew 21:33-41
Isaiah's Parable of the Vineyard
Isaiah 5:1-5
There was a landowner[master of the house] who planted a vineyard My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside (Is 5:1)
put a hedge around it take away its hedge (Is 5:5b)
dug a wine press in it and hewed out a wine press (Is 5:2c)
and built a tower Within it he built a watchtower (Is 5:2b)

Isaiah's parable presents God's judgment on an unrepentant people in verse 5: Now, I will let you know what I mean to do to my vineyard: Take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled!  And verse 7 identifies the vineyard: The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his cherished plant.

In Scripture, the wine press often represents the yielding of the best wine as a symbol of covenant obedience as in Numbers 18:27 ~ and your contribution will be credited to you as if it were the grain from the threshing floor or new wine from the press.  However, the winepress could also symbolize the crushing of the wicked in divine judgment:

The Book of Revelation uses the same "wine press" judgment imagery:

In understanding both parables, it is important to understand who owned the land of Israel.  The Promised Land of Israel belonged to God, and the children of Israel were His tenants.  They could never sell the land; it could only be leased: The land shall not be sold in perpetuity; for the land is mine, and you are but aliens who have become my tenants (Lev 25:23).  With this knowledge, it is easier to understand the symbolism of the parable and answer the questions: Who is the master-of-the-house who owns the vineyard?  What does the vineyard represent?  What do the hedge and watchtower represent, and what does the wine press represent?  Who are the tenants in charge of the harvest, who are the master's two groups of servants who were beaten and killed and who is the son the tenants killed? 

  1. God is the Master of the house (the Church).
  2. The vineyard is the Promised Land of Israel.
  3. The protective hedge and the watchtower represent God's hand of protection over His faithful covenant people.
  4. The purpose of the wine press was to produce the fruit of the harvest that is the wine of the covenant.  The good wine is a symbol of covenant union, but rebellion only yields the "wine of God's wrath" in judgment.
  5. The tenants in charge of the harvest are the religious authorities.
  6. The Master's servants are the Old Testament prophets (first set) and Jesus' disciples (second set)*
  7. Jesus is the Master's Son who they killed.

*Jesus warned His disciples of the persecution they will face (Mt 10:16-18), and He will warn them again in His homily at the Last Supper (Jn 16:1-4).

Jesus asked the religious leaders:   "40 What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?"  41 They answered him, 'He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.'" 
The answer of the religious leaders in verse 41 is ironic.  In their answer, they pronounced their own judgment, and the result was God gave their authority over the "vineyard/the Church of God's covenant people" to "other tenants."   The "other tenants" who will have authority over the Master's vineyard in place of the tenants who killed the Master's son are the Christians of the new Israel.  The men who oppose Jesus will lose their place as the authoritative hierarchy of God's house (His Church).  St. Peter and the Apostles, who will become the leaders of the New Covenant Church, will receive the authority of God to govern His covenant people of the "new Israel" in the name of Jesus Christ (see Mt 16:18-19; 18:18; Jn 20:21-23, CCC 788).

Notice that the end of Isaiah's parable and Jesus' parable both end in violence:

Both parables end in the judgment of Israel, but Jesus also turns this vineyard parable into a prophecy of His Passion and death.

Matthew 21:42-45 ~ Jesus Teaches the Meaning of the Parable
42 Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes'?  43 Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit. 
Jesus challenges the chief priests and Pharisees again on their knowledge of the Scriptures, saying Did you never read in the Scriptures...  He challenged His opponents this way previously (Mt 12:3, 5; 21:16) and will do so again (Mt 22:31), which must have made them furious since they saw themselves as the sole proprietors of the deposit of sacred knowledge.  The Old Testament passage Jesus quotes in verse 42 is from Psalm 118:22 in the Greek Septuagint translation.

The religious authorities do not at first understand Jesus' parable.  However, when Jesus adds an additional teaching, the meaning is suddenly and disturbingly clear to them.  Notice how Jesus' quote from Psalms 118:22-23 reveals His true identity.  Psalms 118:22 is the verse of the Messianic Psalms just before the verse quoted by the crowds as He rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (see Mt 21:9 quoting Ps 22-23).  The "builders" refers to the religious leaders of the Sinai Covenant (Peter will refer to them this way in Acts 4:11).  Jesus' reference to this psalm is related to Ezekiel 34:1-10 and His vineyard parable by identifying the chief priests and elders in three ways.  Jesus tells them that He is the cornerstone that the builders (the religious authorities) reject in Psalms 118:22-23, a reference to His Passion, and He condemns them as: 

  1. the false builders of Psalms 118:22
  2. the failed shepherds the prophet Ezekiel spoke of in Ezekiel 34:1-10
  3. the wicked tenants of His parable

The Vicar of Christ (the Pope), the bishops and priests of the ministerial priesthood, and baptized Christians of the priesthood of the faithful are the ones Jesus anointed as the people of His New Covenant Kingdom.  As the tenants of Christ's Vineyard that is the Church, we need to take care that we don't let ourselves become overgrown with the thorns and briers of worldly anxiety that quench the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We need to fill our hearts and minds with Christ so that we bear the "fruit" of righteous deeds for the sake of the Kingdom, rejoicing in the nearness of our Lord and Savior and in the "best wine" of the life of Christ in the Eucharist.

Catechism References:
Isaiah 5:1-7 (CCC 755)
Philippians 4:6-7 (CCC 2633); 4:8 (CCC 1803)
Matthew 21:33-43 (CCC 755); 21:34-36 (CCC 443); 21:37-38 (CCC 443); 21:42 (CCC 756)

Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2014; revised 2017