25th Sunday in Ordinary
A Homily - Cycle A - 2004-2005
First Reading - Isaiah 55:6-9
Responsorial Psalm - Palm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
Second Reading - Philippians - 1:20c-24, 27a
Gospel - Matthew 20: 1-16a
Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just. So they went off. He went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o'clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' They answered, 'Because no one has hired us. He said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.'
When it was evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.' When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the heat. He said to one of them in reply, 'My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?' Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last."
There are fewer Gospel readings than the one we just heard that give meaning to the worlds of Isaiah when he says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways, my ways." After hearing today's Gospel, we often sense an injustice - an unfairness about the landowner treated the laborers hired early in the day. If we do sense this unfairness, it should reveal dispositions we have towards the Lord that require some fine-tuning and in some cases, deeper conversion.
1. Before we examine the meaning of the parable, we should say a word about what it does NOT mean. The parable is not intended to be a paradigm for the Catholic notion of labor relations. The landowner in the Gospel is not strictly a landowner - he's also a metaphor for how God the Father deals with us.
2. Most of us here have practiced the Faith our whole lives, akin to the laborers hired early in the day. We ought never complain about God's generosity towards those who have come from the depths of sin and despair and destruction into conversion. After all, God actually has given us the privilege of becoming participants in our own salvation - cooperators in His salvific work by giving us the benefit of years of receiving the sacraments.
3. There is no need for envy towards those who come to conversion late in life. Such an attitude reveals a begrudging giver who has no joy - or desire for God and things of God. Such an attitude reveals a lack of mercy for those whom we should have been praying for. Finally, such an attitude suggests that it would have been better to have been a sinner all of one's life and "sneak-in" to heaven at the last moment. That's an easy statement to make but what if that sinner had not died free from mortal? What if that sinner had died as an enemy of God and not converted and therefore didn't "sneak-in?"
4. Unless the convert is baptized at death, all converts or reverts (fall away Catholics who have returned) will have purgatory to pay in the next life if they cannot and do not make restitution for the sins of their past life while there are still on earth. God's mercy and justice never contradict each other.
What is the antidote? Gratitude! Gratitude for the Faith; for a life of virtue; for the sacraments; for the freedom that the moral law has given us so that we can live as we ought, united to God in truth; and the privilege to be fellow workers in the vineyard of the Lord, cooperating in our own salvation!
Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever!
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