Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and companions, martyrs
(Tobit 1:3.2:1a-8; Mark 12:1-12)
For most of the second half of the twentieth century Chicago was governed by the Daley machine. People throughout the country were aghast at the corruption, but the local populace, prospering economically, did not mind the patronage. It seemed to take pride in the statement made by a city alderman, “Chicago ain’t ready for reform.” Jesus can be seen as preaching against such a system in today’s gospel.
The parable of the vineyard is a thinly veiled indictment of the Jewish leadership who stand before him. It insinuates that the chief priests, scribes and elders are abusing the trust God has placed in them. Instead of caring for the people, it argues that they make a profit for themselves. It further prophesizes that in time the Jewish leaders will kill Jesus himself but for this act, they will be severely punished.
Courage, of course, is required to speak up against improper governance. Similar to Jesus in the gospel, today’s saint, Charles Lwanga of Uganda, was martyred for admonishing his king for outrageous behavior. Prudence is always necessary when making public outcries, but prudence joins forces with courage to speak truth to power when the situation demands it.