Reflection for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

From: The Benedictine Monastery of Christ in the Desert. (by kind permission of the Abbot)

Image result for workers in the vineyard

FIRST READING  Isaiah 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        Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a

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       Matthew 20:1-16a

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.”

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

How can someone who works the whole day be paid the same as someone who only worked an hour or less?  God keeps on demanding of us that we recognize His mercy and His love.  Do we want salvation for others, even if they have only converted at the last moment?  If we don’t, then there is something wrong in the way that we love others.

The first reading today comes from the Prophet Isaiah.  Today he tells us:  “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near.”  And the Prophet reminds us that God’s way are not our ways.  These are two important points that help us understand just a bit how God is toward us.  The Lord is always near but we don’t always feel that way.  The Lord can always be found, but we don’t spend the energy.  To walk with God will cost us our life—and we are often not entirely committed to that walk with the Lord.  But God loves us always because His ways are not our ways.  If we have a friend who is just with us and for us part of the time, we would normally not consider that person a very good friend.  Yet God in Christ Jesus is willing to call us brothers and sisters and friend and beloved—even when we reject Him.

The second reading is from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.  Saint Paul tells us first about his own experience of giving himself for others.  Then he reminds us:  “Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  We are brought back once more to face ourselves as we are before God.  Do we live in a way that manifests God’s love for others?  Do we have mercy on others?  Do we pardon others even if they continue to seek to harm us?  This is strong teaching.

So we come to the Gospel from Saint Matthew.  What an incredible parable!  This is Jesus teaching us about the Kingdom of God.  God will continue to invite us over and over throughout our whole life.  God never tires of asking us:  “Will you come and work in my vineyard?”  We can’t really believe that God is so good because we ourselves are often no so good.  But God is not a human being!  God is God and has his own ways and His own thoughts.  God loves us eternally and is always willing to forgive us and to show us mercy.

We are invited today to know more about how God loves us and then to live that same kind of love with one another.  Truly it is the only way to salvation and the only way that our world will ever come to live in peace.  Let us walk with Jesus and live as He lived.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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