25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, September 20, 2020
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First reading: Is. 55:6-9

Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.

Second reading: Phil. 1:20-24,27

Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.

Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Gospel: Mt. 20:1-16

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “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, the landowner 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. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner 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? Or 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.”

In other words Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD (Christ the King Missions Seminary, Quezon City)

“That’s unfair. How can Jesus tell such a story?” I cannot forget this indignant exclamation of an elderly man who attended my Bible study.

It seems the landowner, God, is not just. That cannot be. What then is Jesus telling? As always we tell the story in context. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem where his enemies will kill him. He has to tell them some things they don’t like to hear. And as usual he tells a parable. And his parables are not nice bedtime stories but often provocative, as the reaction of the elderly man shows.

Like in all parables, Jesus tells a story about daily things in the life of people. He presents a picture of the social situation of his time, which the listeners recognize. But, at the same time in this parable, there are events which have not taken place in reality in the people’s lives. And this is why in the story, the master does things which are surprising, which astound the listeners. But, in this strange attitude of the master, we need to find the key to understanding the message of the parable.

The landowner had promised one denarius each, leaving those who worked the whole day hoping to get more. But no. The surprising explanation of the landowner is the key to the parable, indicating the message which Jesus wants to communicate to us.

The background of the parable is the circumstance of the time, for Jesus as well as for Matthew. The workers of the first hour are the Jewish people, called by God to work in his vineyard. They bear the weight of the day, from Abraham to Moses, for over one thousand years. Now at the eleventh hour, Jesus calls the pagans, the gentiles to work in his vineyard and they succeed in getting the preference in the heart of God. “Thus the first ones will be last and the last will be first.” This is what the Jewish leaders did not like to accept.

God’s action surpasses our calculations and our human way of acting. He surprises us and sometimes it is uncomfortable. Has this happened to you in your life? What lessons have you drawn from this?

Tags: Bible reflection, Witness to the Word