BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas

Gospel: Mt. 21:33-43 – The Parable of the Tenants

1. The Marian Message
a) The Blessed Mother gave this message in Spain. Remember that the missionaries that evangelized the Philippines came from Spain. But the Blessed Mother laments the fact that Spain is already a barren country in terms of Christian life and values.

b) The Blessed Mother mentions three snares that Satan uses to bring people away from God (letter b). The first is the atheistic and materialistic ideologies (letter c). This led to the error of indifferentism and the legitimization of immoral means of preventing life.

c) The second snare concerns the Church: the secularization of many priests and religious and the interior division in the Church (letter d). Calling the priests and religious as “Angels of the Churches”, she appealed to them for conversion and faithful observance of their duties and responsibilities to the people. She made reference to this Sunday’s Gospel when she used the image of God’s vineyard and how they have been unworthy tenants.

d) The third snare concern the youth who fall into the trap of immorality (letter e). She called on the young people to conversion and a return to the path of purity and holiness.

e) Finally, she asked all her children to “entrust yourselves to the protection of your Guardian Angels, especially of the Archangels Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (letter f). They will help us obtain the gift of fortitude in this final battle, which we will surely win through our victorious Mother, the Woman Clothed in the Sun.

2. All About the Angels
a) This past few days, we held the celebrations in honor of God’s angels: September 29 – Feast of the Archangels Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael; October 02 – Memorial of the Guardian Angels.

b) The Holy Angels (from St. Gregory the Great) There are nine choirs of angels: angels, archangels, virtues, powers, principalities, dominions, thrones, cherubim and seraphim. Scriptures, especially St. Paul mentions all the nine.

All angels are spiritual beings, but not all are called angels. Angels are those who make announcements or pronouncements. Those who make important announcements are Archangels (like Gabriel, sent to Mary). Virtues are those spirits through whom miracles and prodigies are most often worked. Powers are those who within their own order have received a greater power to be able to subdue the enemy’s powers, so that these are contained and do not tempt as much as they could.

Principalities are those who direct the other good spirits ordering them to do what they ought. They are the ones who preside over the others and are responsible for fulfilling the divine commands.

Dominions are those who are above even the principalities, because presiding implies being at the front or at the head, but dominating means having the others as subjects. Thus the angelic militia, who are outstanding because of their extraordinary power, insofar as they have others subject to their obedience, are called dominions. Thrones are those over whom the all-powerful God presides regarding the fulfillment of his desires. In our language, a throne is a kind of seat. Those who have received the name Throne are those so filled with divine grace that God is seated in them, and through them decrees his desires.

The Cherubim are also called fullness of knowledge. These lofty armies of angels are called cherubim because the closer they contemplate the clarity of God, the greater they are replete with the most perfect knowledge. Thus, insofar as it is possible for created beings, they know everything proportional to the clarity with which they see the Creator, in keeping with their dignity.

Finally, Seraphim are those armies of angels who, by their special closeness to the Creator, burn with an incomparable love. Seraphim are ardent and aflame. They are so close to God that between them and God there is no other spirit. They glow stronger the closer they are to seeing him. Their love is certainly aflame, for the more subtly they see the clarity of God, the more are they aflamed with his love. c) The Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael –

The name “angel” (‘anggelos’ in Greek) means messenger. They are spiritual and intelligent beings, who are sent by God to bring his message to the people. If the message is of great importance for the people, the angel is called archangel.

September 29 is the celebration the feast of the three archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Michael in Hebrew means “Who is like God?” According to Jude 9, Michael waged war with the devil over the body of Moses, and in Revelation 12:7-9, he and his angels fight the dragon and hurl him and his followers from heaven. He is also believed to protect Christians against the devil, especially at the hour of death, and to lead their souls to God. He is venerated as the head of the heavenly armies and as patron saint of soldiers, paratroopers, police officers, the sick, radiologists, grocers, and mariners.

Gabriel in Hebrew means “man of God”. In the Old Testament, he is portrayed as an instrument of revelation and as a heavenly intercessor. He is one of those who stand in the presence of God, and he is sent to announce the birth of John the Baptist and the conception of Jesus to Mary, addressing the Blessed Virgin in the memorable words, “Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you.” He is patron saint of messengers, diplomats, and postal employees.

Raphael in Hebrew means, “God heals”. In the Book of Tobit, he is portrayed as God’s messenger who hears people’s prayers and brings these before God. He is identified as the angel who healed the earth when it was defiled by the sins of the fallen angels. He is patron saint of travelers, physicians, nurses, lovers, health inspectors and the blind.

d) The Guardian Angels – According to the belief of many Catholics (and some pagans and Jews before the time of Christ), guardian angels are spiritual beings who protect individual persons from spiritual and physical harm. The belief has some basis in the New Testament (ex. Mt 18:10; Acts 12:15), and the Catechism of the Catholic Church assumes their existence and traditional function (no. 336). However, the Church has never defined anything about them. The guardian angels were originally commemorated with St. Michael the Archangel on Sept 29, but an independent feast, first found in Portugal in 1513, was later extended to the whole Church by Pope Clement X in 1670 and assigned October 2 as the feast day.

The following is an excerpt from an official document of the Church, the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy:
“Popular piety encompasses many forms of devotion to the Guardian Angels. St. Basil the Great (+378) taught that ‘each and every member of the faithful has a Guardian Angel to protect, guard and guide them through life.’ This ancient teaching was consolidated by biblical and patristic sources and lies behind many forms of piety. St. Bernard of Clairvaux (+1153) was a great master and a notable promoter of devotion to the Guardian Angels. For him, they were a proof ‘that heaven denies us nothing that assists us’, and hence, ‘these celestial spirits have been placed at our sides to protect us, instruct us, and to guide us.’” (Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, no. 216).

e) Some Common Questions about Angels: – Are there male and female angels? No. Male and female sexes are only for those who have physical bodies. The sexes are designed for procreation. The angels are pure spirits; they have no physical bodies. And since they are spiritual, they do not have bodies that die and so there is no need for sexual activity in order to procreate.

– Do angels commit mistakes? No. They are intellectual beings. They come to know the truth by pure intuition. So they cannot commit mistakes. But they can abuse their freedom, as done by the rebellious angels led by Lucifer.

That one wrong decision pushed them to eternal fire in hell. There is no second chance. On the other hand, human beings are not intellectual beings. We come to know the truth by hit and miss, that is, by the process of reasoning. So we often commit mistakes and sins. That is why God gives us many chances to repent and reform ourselves, and even sent His Son Jesus to save us. St. Augustine rejoiced and exclaimed: “O happy fault (felix culpa!) that merited the coming of the Savior!”

– How many angels are there? Nobody knows. Number refers to quantity, and quantity has something to do with matter (anything that occupies space and has weight). Angels are pure spirits, and so, strictly speaking, they cannot be quantified, and cannot be counted.

– Where do angels reside? They are in the eternal presence of God, ceaselessly ministering to Him. So they are in heaven. But since they are pure spirits, they can be on earth at any given moment since they are not under the limitations of time and space. (This is the reason why they are ordinarily portrayed with wings.) But they can only leave heaven if God sends them on a mission. In this case, they are called in the strict sense “angels” (“anggelos” – meaning “messenger”).

– What is the appearance of angels? Nothing in particular since they have no physical bodies. They can appear with wings, or as huge as the earth, or as a small boy, as a man or woman. This has been abundantly illustrated in Sacred Scriptures. But usually they are invisible.

– Classic question in Philosophy: “How many angels can stand on the tip of a needle?” Answer: Wrong question. There is no relationship between angels and the needle. The angels are spirits; the needle is physical. There can be an infinite number of angels that can be on the tip of a needle. This question is absurd.

3. The Sunday Gospel
a) The parable of the Tenants uses the imagery of a vineyard. This image is obviously taken from the “Song of the Vineyard” in Isaiah, which is the first reading this Sunday. The vineyard is the house of Israel, God’s people. This parable illustrates the contrast between God’s love for his people and the people’s obstinate disobedience and treachery. This is essentially God’s call to repentance for his people.

b) God’s love: This can be seen in the detailed enumeration of the work done by the owner to his vineyard. He was the one who painstakingly planted the vineyard. Then he put a wall around it to protect it from animals and thieves. He dug out a vat behind the walls to press out the ripe grapes. Then he erected a tower where the guard can be stationed to watch over the vineyard. He has put his full trust in the tenants under whose care and supervision he has left his beloved vineyard. The tenants are the religious leaders of the people who were charged with the duty for the welfare of the people.

c) The people’s treachery. When the owner of the vineyard sent his servants to collect his share of the harvest, the tenants killed them all. The servants are the prophets. There were two groups: those sent before the Exile to Babylon and those sent after the Exile. Finally, he sent his own Son. But he too was killed by them. This parable then is a prediction of Jesus about his forthcoming sufferings and death in the hands of the religious leaders of Israel.

d) This parable is primarily directed to the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time. They are the tenants of the Lord’s vineyard, who not only failed in their responsibilities, but also took their heels against the owner of the vineyard, God Himself, by killing His Son. Their sentence is swift and definitive: “Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

e) This is also a strong warning to us. We are the new People of God. He entrusted to us all His graces and even His dignity in making us His children in Baptism. A time for accounting will definitely come. We must be trustworthy tenants of His vineyard so that we become His instruments for the salvation of His people.

Otherwise, we will end up in the same pit as the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time. Our Christian faith gives us not only honor and dignity; it also gives us serious duties and responsibilities. God will judge us accordingly, depending on how faithfully we fulfill our role and our duties and obligations. Hence, this parable ultimately is a call to repentance for all of us, to reform our lives and do our best to become better Christians.

f) What has this Gospel reading to do with the topic on the angels? The Bible is very clear on this. In the accounts about the Last Judgment, it is always said that God will send His angels to carry out His sentence: reward the just, and punish the wicked. This we see both in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament. (Take for example the case of Moses and the Exodus where the angels played a major role in defending and guiding the people.) God sends us His angels to help us in our daily struggles in the fulfillment of our Christian duties. And He also sends His angels to execute rewards and punishments.

4. Closing
Recite together:
Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel
Prayer to our Guardian Angels

1. Ano ang mga mahalagang hakbang upang tayo ay maging tapat na mga katiwala sa ubasan ng Panginoon?
2. Marami ang naniniwala na ang mga anghel ay para lamang sa mga bata, at ang mga matatanda ay wala nang kinalaman sa mga anghel. Ano ang inyong pananaw tungkol dito?
3. Magbahaginan ng personal na karanasan tungkol sa kilos at tulong ng mga anghel sa ating buhay.