In the kingdom of heaven, God’s way prevails...
Reflections on the readings for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (September 20, 2020): IS 55:6-9; PS 145:2-3,8-9; 17-18; PHIL 1:20-24,27; MT 20:1-16
MISSIO offers “Preaching Mission,” as a homily help, providing connections to mission from the readings of Sundays, Feast Days and Holy Days.
We tend to calculate things on a personal scale of what is fair, and it may or may not be the same as other people.
The Gospel reading for this Sunday is a reminder that the way people look at things is often not God’s way. In what is called the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, or of the Good Employer, Jesus again speaks about the kingdom of heaven. The landowner actively seeks laborers to work in his vineyard, going to the marketplace five times. The first group he hires at dawn agrees to the usual daily wage (probably one denarius). He assures the others they will get what is just. At the end of the day, the workers who only labored for an hour receive the same amount as those who had toiled all day. And those first hired were not happy about it. They complained because they thought they deserved more for their long efforts in the hot sun. So Jesus has the vineyard owner say, “My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual 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” (Matthew 20:13-16).
In the kingdom of heaven, God’s way prevails. And it is far more merciful than our way. In the story Christ tells His disciples, He urges them to understand that their perception of justice is far more limited than that of Almighty God. We tend to calculate things on a personal scale of what is fair, and it may or may not be the same as other people. In this parable we can see the people of Israel who were long ago called to be the people of God – as well as the Gentiles who had experienced no real awareness of Him and who were newly welcomed to the kingdom. We can also see faithful followers of Christ who dedicate themselves to Him for their whole lives – and then those who embrace His message of hope and redemption after leading selfish, even immoral lives. We need to remember that none of us ever earn our way into heaven. It is God’s generous gift to us, paid for by His Son. This is true mercy. It is up to us to embrace it with gratitude and then to share it with others.