Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

GOSPEL. ST. MATT, xxi, 33-46.
(The Rejection of the Jews, and Jesus at the Holy Staircase.)
At that time Jesus spoke this parable to the multitude of the Jews and the chief priests. There was a man, a householder, who planted a vineyard, and made a hedge round about it, and dug in it a press, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen; and went into a strange country. And when the time of the fruits drew nigh, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits thereof. And the husbandmen laying hands on his servants beat one and killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants more than the former; and they did to them in like manner. And last of all he sent to them his son, saying: They will reverence my son. But the husbandmen seeing the son, said among themselves: This is the heir, come, let us kill him, and we shall have his inheritance. And taking him they cast him forth out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the lord of the vineyard shall come, what will he do to those husbandmen? They say to him: He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen, that shall render him the fruit in due season. Jesus saith to them: Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders reject, the same is become the cornerstone? By the Lord this hath been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes. Therefore I say to you, that the Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone, shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard His parables, they knew that He spoke of them. And seeking to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitude: because they held Him as a prophet.

Christian soul, the gospel describes the horrible ingratitude of the Jews towards God and towards His messengers. It was this vice which caused Him to reject the chosen people. In fact there is nothing which is so detested by God and by men as ingratitude. God withdraws His grace from the ungrateful person, and leaves him in his misery, because his conceit forces God to hate him. Then the ingrate loses all taste for higher things, his zeal for God and for the salvation of his soul vanishes, and he is despised by God and by men.
Consider the ingratitude of the Jews towards their suffering Savior. Instead of having reverence for the son of the eternal Father Who be stowed on them so many favors, they lead Him from Herod back to Pilate. These two men were once enemies, but now they are friends united by the common bonds of ingratitude. The Jews drag Jesus up the holy staircase so roughly that He falls on the white marble steps and moistens them with the blood of His holy head. (This holy staircase is exhibited at the present day in Rome, and it is reverenced with the greatest devotion.) Is it a wonder that the kingdom of God should have been taken from this nation? But you, O Christian soul, reflect on your own ingratitude towards God; repent of it, and do penance for it, that a similar punishment may not befall you.
Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that, purified by the holy fast, we may celebrate the coming festival with pure hearts.
By Thy awful sufferings of body and soul, pardon, O Jesus, the ingratitude of our lives, and fill our hearts with the spirit of grateful love towards God and men; unworthy as we are, do not with draw Thy grace from us, as Thou never tired of dispensing Thy favors. Amen.

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