The Parable of the Tenants – Matthew 21:33-43

1. Introductory prayer for the Parable of the Tenants – Matthew 21:33-43

I pause and slowly calm myself. I make the sign of the cross, becoming more deeply aware of God’s presence within me and in everything that surrounds me. I ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the gift of being moved by God’s word, which I am now allowed to read, listen to, ponder, and allow it to shape Christ within me (Gal 4:19), that I may become merciful, just as the heavenly Father is merciful (Lk 6:36). I ask for this in my own words or by using the following:

“Please grant me the grace to be able and know how to listen from the outside and from the inside. From the outside, the words I am reading, from the inside, the feelings and impulses that awaken within me as I do so. Slowly, I begin to read the Gospel passage. Word by word. Line by line. I gaze upon Him who is speaking to me.

2. Reading – Listening: The Parable of the Tenants – Matthew 21:33-43

33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

41 “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

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“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.

3. Thoughts on the Gospel: The Parable of the Tenants – Matthew 21:33-43 – Meaning and Commentary

The story of Jesus about the absent owner and his not-so-good tenants reflected the reality of that time. The Galilean hills where this parable was spoken were dotted with numerous vineyards, and it was quite common for owners to lease their estates to tenants.

However, Jesus’ story troubled the scribes and Pharisees because it contained a prophetic message and warning. They knew he was talking about God’s dealings with stubborn and rebellious people, a theme already discussed by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 5:1-30).

This parable also speaks to us today. It richly expresses some important truths about God and His dealings with His people. It tells us about God’s generosity and trust. The vineyard is well-equipped with everything the tenants need. The owner has gone away and entrusted it to them. Similarly, God provides us with everything we need to manifest His love, respect, and mercy. He trusts us. He gives us the freedom to live our lives as we choose, but at the same time, He desires us to bear fruit, the fruit of love and justice.

This parable also tells us about God’s patience and justice. He forgives the tenants of their debts multiple times. What a contrast to what we would likely do in similar circumstances!

He went so far as to send His only Son (verse 37) to show His love and patience! He still gives us time to bear fruit. He continues to love us and seeks our love in return.

However, God’s patience has its limits. When the Jewish nation rejected Christ, God gave the vineyard (the message of the Gospel) to the Gentiles. If we reject Christ, the Gospel will be taken from us and given to others.

An old Jewish story tells of builders who, when Solomon built the famous temple, rejected a stone brought to them for construction. They discarded it, deeming it unsuitable for the temple. Later, they reconsidered and used it as the cornerstone for the entire temple.

Jesus took the messianic verse, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22), and applied it to himself. Just as they rejected the stone that was actually the most important, Jesus will be rejected, but he is the true cornerstone.

Jesus warns his listeners that God’s offer of salvation is not eternal (Matthew 21:43). Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). We must decide now, today. We should not wait for tomorrow. Today, we must bear fruit. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. We may be given the opportunity again tomorrow, or it may already be too late. We do not know the hour or the day. If we postpone our decision to live in the spirit of the Gospel to the future, we risk much.

4. Meditation – Thinking

I am now reflecting on the heard Word of God. I am looking at Jesus and other individuals in the passage. I am observing how the Word of God touches my thoughts and feelings, how it reveals God to me and me to myself and others in Him. The following thoughts or questions can also be helpful:

  • Which words of Jesus have particularly touched me, and moved me?
  • What is preventing me from bearing fruit already today?

5. Personal Prayer

In the next moments of silence, I talk about this with Jesus. I tell him what I think, what I feel, what I want. I ask him for the grace that I need for … (make your conversation with God).

6. Contemplation – Quiet moment with God

I allow everything within me to fall silent. I am simply present in God, just as He is present in me. Perhaps from this silence and stillness, I will sense even more of God’s address and His desire for me to be always with Him and to do everything with Him and in Him…

7. Action

When I enter into a personal relationship with God, He transforms me, makes me more loving, and inspires me to take concrete action…

8. Prayer at the end

“Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus Christ and for all the opportunities you provide through Him. Help me through the Holy Spirit not to procrastinate living by the Gospel anymore and to bear as much fruit as possible starting today.”

9. Review of my prayer meditation or reflection

This is the time when I became aware of and articulate what was happening within me during prayer. The following questions can assist me in reflection:

  • What was happening during prayer? What feelings and thoughts could I discern within myself?
  • What did I learn about God, His relationship with me and others, and my own relationship with Him and others?
  • How did I conclude my prayer? What did I receive in it for my everyday life?
  • In the end, I can jot down my insights, discoveries, and realizations. I also note where I encountered difficulties, as these can be valuable in understanding God’s relationship with me and my relationship with Him. They can also help me find a more suitable way of praying. Then, I express gratitude to the triune God for everything.

Lectio Divina meditations are published and adapted with permission from the Jesuits home –

Text from the Bible – New International Version (NIV)

Let us remain close in the same prayer! May the Lord bless you abundantly!