By MARK SALUDES
Ps 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20
The Gospel reading for today presents a powerful message of the “rejected stone becoming the cornerstone.” This message resonates deeply with the struggle for human rights in the Philippines, as it highlights the rejection of marginalized and oppressed individuals and groups, who, like the stone, are striving to claim their rightful place in society.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about a landowner who planted a vineyard and leased it to tenants. When the time came to collect the produce, the landowner sent servants to the vineyard, but the tenants mistreated and killed them. Finally, the landowner sends his son, hoping that the tenants would respect him, but they conspire to kill him and seize his inheritance. Jesus then refers to a passage from the Scriptures, proclaiming that the stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
This parable holds profound connections for the struggle for human rights. The vineyard represents the world, and the landowner symbolizes God, the creator of humanity. The tenants represent those in power or authority, who have often exploited their position to oppress and marginalize others. The servants sent by the landowner are the prophets and messengers who have spoken out against injustice and advocated for the rights of the marginalized.
In this context, the stone that the builders rejected signifies the marginalized and oppressed groups whose voices and rights have been denied throughout history. These groups include but are not limited to racial and ethnic minorities, women, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and indigenous populations. They are the “stones” that society has cast aside.
The rejection of these “stones” by the builders, representing those in power, reflects the systemic and institutionalized discrimination that has persisted for centuries. This rejection has manifested in various forms, such as slavery, colonization, segregation, gender inequality, and persecution. The denial of basic human rights has resulted in immense suffering, injustice, and inequality.
However, the message of hope and redemption in this parable is that the rejected stone becomes the cornerstone. It signifies that those who have been oppressed and marginalized have the potential to transform society and build a more just and equitable world. This transformation occurs when these marginalized groups unite, assert their rights, and demand justice.
The parable also serves as a warning to those who hold power and perpetrate human rights violations. Jesus’s declaration that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from the unjust tenants and given to a people who will produce its fruit is a reminder that those who perpetuate injustice will ultimately face consequences.
In the struggle for human rights, we see numerous examples of the rejected stone becoming the cornerstone. Recently, two young women environmental activists – who were abducted by state forces and were presented to the public as communist rebels – became a symbol of courage and bravery.
The struggle for human rights continues. Many individuals and groups around the world face discrimination, persecution, and violence. The rejection of their rights persists, but they persist as well, determined to become the cornerstone of a more just and equitable society, like Jhed and Jonila.
So, why do victims of human rights violations fight for their rights even when they are rejected and oppressed? They do so because they recognize their inherent worth and the injustice of their circumstances. They refuse to accept a world where voices are silenced and dignity is denied. Like the stone in the parable, they strive to become the cornerstone, reshaping society and building a foundation of justice, equality, and human rights for all.
The Gospel reminds us that the rejected stone becoming the cornerstone is not only a metaphorical concept but a living reality. Those who have been marginalized and oppressed have the capacity to bring about transformative change when they unite and demand their rights. This parable calls Christians to stand in solidarity with those fighting for their rights and to work toward a world where every individual is recognized as a cornerstone of justice and human dignity.
Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing, reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).