20  September 2020: Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

by FR. Emmanuel, PaSTOR

Our scripture readings for this twenty-fifth Sunday are all about the surprising nature of God’s grace which many prefer to call ‘amazing grace.’  Today we have the parable known as “the Parable of Workers in the Vineyard” or “the Parable of the Generous Landlord.”  This remarkable and rather startling parable is found only in Matthew. 

This parable is  good news to every one of us because it is the story of the landlord’s love and generosity representing God’s love and generosity.  It is the story of how God looks at us, sees our needs and meets those needs.  God never asks “How much do these people deserve?”  but “How can I help them?  How can I save them before they perish?”  It is all about grace and blessings.

Aim of the parable: (i) This parable is a definite warning to the Jews.  As the chosen people of God the Jews looked down upon the Gentiles and considered the Gentile Christians as second-class Christians.  Jesus warns them that the Gentiles who put their faith in God will have the same reward a good Jew may expect.   

(ii) This parable is a definite warning to the disciples: Jesus teaches his disciples not to claim any special honor because they are closely associated with him or because they are the first members of Christianity.  All the people, no matter when they come, are equally precious to God.  

(iii) This parable is a definite explanation by Jesus of His love for the publicans and sinners.  Through this parable, Jesus describes the loving concern, generosity and mercy of God his Father which he reflects in his life to the sinners and tax-collectors. 

The parable has mainly two parts: 1. The strange type of recruiting servants:  In a harvesting time of grapes which may be lost in the monsoon time of heavy rains, hiring servants for a few hours was not a strange thing.   

2. And the second, the strange type of rewarding the servants.  The most startling thing in this parable is seemingly the unjust remuneration for work:  Our sense of justice seems to favor the laborers who worked all day and expected a wage greater than that given to the latecomers.  Perhaps most people would sympathize with the workers who had worked longer and seemingly deserved more.  We can understand their complaint since, for most of us, salaries are linked to the number of hours of work.   

This story illustrates the difference between God’s perspective and ours.  God doesn’t see matters in the same way that we do.  In the first reading Isaiah the prophet reminds the exiles in Babylon that even if they ignored their covenant with God, God is ready to pardon their infidelity. Their God is more merciful than they are, and more forgiving.  Their merciful God will bless them with material and spiritual blessings. Isaiah reminds us that our God doesn’t think in the same way that we do.  As Isaiah reminds us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”   

Today’s second reading also indicates another difference between God’s perspective and ours. Paul is trying to decide whether to prefer death or life.  The ordinary human point of view is one that greatly prefers life to death.  Having taken on the perspective of God, Paul is equally ready to live or die.  

Back to the parable in today’s Gospel, we realize that working in the vineyard itself is a great gift.  Once we appreciate God calling us in the morning hour and allowing us all through the day we start seeing the beauty of the parable in a very different way.  Looking into my own life I feel that if God gave me already 44 years to work in his vineyard as a priest how much more I am blessed than one who got opportunity only for one or two years to work in the vineyard. 

Another aspect of the parable is that we feel jealous of the landlord’s generosity to the last group who worked only for one hour.   It is because we identify ourselves with those who worked in the vineyard starting from early hours.  But instead, when we realize that we belong to the last group how much joyful and thankful we become. We realize how much merciful God is to us! We will be always to the great generosity of God.

We all know the story of the good thief on the cross who was crucified with Jesus. Even though he had lived a bad life, he repented and was sorry for his sins for one moment and recognized Jesus who forgave him and told him he would be in paradise with him that very day.  God’s mercy goes beyond human calculations. 

Finally, We need to follow God’s example and show grace and generosity to our neighbor.  When someone else is more successful than we are, let us assume he needs it.  When someone who does wrong is forgiven, let us remember the many times we have been forgiven.   We become envious of others because of our lack of generosity of heart.  Envy should have no place in our lives.  God personally calls each one of us to work in his vineyard and shows us his care by giving us His grace and eternal salvation.  Our call to God’s vineyard is a free gift from God for which we can never be sufficiently thankful. Let us always be thankful to God and to one another. 

May God Bless you all.