Jerusalem Bible © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Company Inc.
Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’
He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’
Did you know?
Points of interest and Catholic lore
- The pool of Siloam was a reservoir that lay within the city walls of ancient Jerusalem. During the reign of King Hezekiah, an extraordinary tunnel was dug through bedrock to connect it to the spring of Gihon outside the city walls so that the city would have an ample water supply in times of siege.
- We have no evidence outside the biblical text of the incident referred to here where Pilate ‘mingled the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifice,’ but such an act is not out of character. Pilate had a reputation for being a brutal military leader.
- At the time in which Jesus lived, suffering was often considered to be a punishment from God for sin committed.
Exploring the Word
This gospel is really about the loving care and patience of God. It was commonly believed that a loving God could not be responsible for terrible calamities that befell people, but that these events must somehow be a result of their own sinfulness. Jesus takes the opportunity to say that the recent deaths of both Galileans and inhabitants of Jerusalem did not mean that they were any more sinful than others. They were no more deserving of death than anyone else. Indeed, we must not look to the sinfulness of others but to our own need for repentance.
The parable of the owner of the vineyard tells of God’s infinite patience in dealing with the sinfulness of humans. Despite our failings, God will graciously allow us time to produce our best fruit. The theme of this gospel—God’s forgiveness and care—will be taken up in the gospels of the next two weeks.
- Lent is a special time of preparation, particularly for the elect. In what ways can you cultivate your own garden of faith in this special time?
- Are there still areas of your life that are yet to produce their best fruit?
Opportunities for group discussion and personal prayer
- How ‘fruitful’ has your life been? What ‘fruit’ have you borne?
- Do you need a second chance to bear good fruit?
- In what ways can you make it even more fruitful?
- Have you ever had an experience of needing to nurture someone or something for a long period before they ‘produced fruit’? Were there failures along the way? What was it that eventually brought about the growth? Share your reflections.
- Attend carefully this week to cultivating your own relationship with God. Try to bring out the best in someone else as well.
- Use this section of today’s psalm as your prayer this week:
The Lord is compassion and love,
slow to anger and rich in mercy.
For as the heavens are above the earth
so strong is his love for those who fear him.
Sharing the tradition
A closer look at the Scripture of the day, to see how it makes more explicit God’s word to us through the teachings of Jesus Christ
Knowing how to explain the problem of suffering and evil in a world created by a good and loving God has always been a dilemma for people of faith. How can God allow terrible things to occur, especially to the innocent?
The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice, and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it(CCC, §164)
As Christians, we believe that the only answer to these profound questions lies in faith in the risen Christ, who overcame death and evil.
- Explore with people their ideas of how to make sense of the bad things that happen in life and in our world.
- You could ask how the elect have made sense of suffering in their own lives. What personal growth came from those experiences?
Symbols and images
The vineyard was often used in Scripture as a symbol of Israel, God’s people. God is depicted as the owner of the vineyard, who attends to it with great care—planting, cultivating, feeding and pruning the vines to make them fruitful and abundant. Israel will be judged on what fruit it bears or fails to bear. So too will we be judged on how fruitful our lives are.
Living the Word
Practical ideas for group leaders to employ in connecting Scripture and daily life, with suggestions for music and environment
- The third Sunday of Lent is the recommended day for the celebration of the first scrutiny. How can you involve your entire community in this celebration for the elect?
- If you are unable to have the presentation of the Creed in a community setting, this could be done as part of your closing prayer. Pray for each other as you near the completion of your journey. A suitable song could be ‘We believe’ (GA 448). Conclude with one of the prayers of exorcism in the RCIA at §141. Remember to adapt it, as you are not using the readings of the gospel for Year A.