‘The kingdom of God will be given to a people who will produce its fruit’

Twenty-seventh Sunday of the Year A

This parable contains a warning to listen and to respond, to produce a harvest of good works for God. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.

Matthew 21:33-43

33 Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. 34 When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. 35 But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. 36 Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. 37 Finally 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 on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” 39 So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ 41 They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ 42 Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures: “It was the stone rejected by the builders that became the keystone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see”? 43 I tell you then that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’

Other readings: Isaiah 5:1-7 Psalm 79 (80) Philippians 4:6-9


The prophets frequently compared the people of Israel to a vineyard. The prophet Isaiah, in today’s first reading, speaks of the vineyard cherished by the Lord which produces only sour fruit. Jesus takes this parable of Isaiah as his starting-point.

Instead of placing the emphasis on the quality of the grapes produced in the vineyard, Jesus speaks of the tenants of the vineyard who refuse to give the landowner his produce. The tenants abuse the servants of the landowner and eventually kill the landowner’s son.

Jesus is now in Jerusalem and he directs these words to those in authority, who, like many of their forefathers, do not heed the messengers of God and fail to produce a harvest of good works for God. It was principally the religious leaders who rejected the message of Jesus. In spite of this behaviour of some of the leaders of Judaism in Jesus’ day, Christians still cherish the Jewish roots of our faith, and value the Old Testament and the Jewish traditions of Jesus and his gospel.

This parable contains a warning to listen and to respond, to ‘produce the fruit of the kingdom’. Once again in this gospel the evangelist points to the receptivity of the Gentiles ‘who will produce the fruit’ of the kingdom. The Church of Christ welcomes all those who heed the message, both Jew and Gentile.

Do I endeavour to bear fruit in response to the gospel message?

Do I treasure the traditions of my faith, both its Jewish roots and Christian fulfilment?

We pray for wisdom and humility among the leaders of our faith.

We pray that the mission of the Church may prosper throughout the world.

INT-IMG_5349 Fr Adrian Graffy (3)Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.

Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”

He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”

Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).

Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy