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(Sunday XXV OT — A) The First will Be Last

Submitted by on Saturday, 17 September 2011No Comment

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Today’s Readings

  • Reading I:  Isaiah 55:6-9
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 145
  • Reading II: Philippians 1:20-24c. 27
  • Gospel Reading: Matthew 20:1-16a

The Rules Have Changed

With Jesus’ parable of the owner of the vineyard, we are told that with the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, the rules have changed, a reversal is in effect. The last will be first; the first will be last. In this reversal, the way people will look at the generosity of God will be determinative. In the parable, those who were paid according to a contract find the owner of the vineyard unfair in his giving the "just wage" to those who worked for less. The owner thus appears unjust, but only because his thoughts do not square up with the way human beings think. Isaiah gives us the reason:

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.

Because God cannot be figured out, we need to turn to him in humility. "Why do you look at me with an evil eye?" asked the owner of the vineyard. Objectifying Him, reducing Him to our level is an exercise in futility. Before Transcendence, we can only look bow in humility and allow ourselves to be taken in by His grace and justice.

Celebrating God’s Grace

"Grace" is totally undeserved yet given by God to those upon whom He has compassion.

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.

Those workers who received a wage far more than they expected do not say anything more in the parable. And yet we are made to understand that as they received their wage and went back home, they were talking about what they have received. How else could those at the back of the line have learned of the generosity of the owner of the vineyard?

Only those who are beneficiaries of God’s grace can truly appreciate God’s goodness. When we are tempted to think that God is unfair, do we also try to remember the good things that we have received from Him?

Isaiah 55:6-9
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
6Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found: call upon him, while he is near.
7Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unjust man his thoughts, and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God: for he is bountiful to forgive.
8For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
9For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.
Philippians 1:20-24
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
20According to my expectation and hope; that in nothing I shall be confounded, but with all confidence, as always, so now also shall Christ be magnified in my body, wither it be by life, or by death.
21For to me, to live is Christ; and to die is gain.
22And if to live in the flesh, this is to me the fruit of labour, and what I shall choose I know not.
23But I am straitened between two: having a desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ, a thing by far the better.
24But to abide still in the flesh, is needful for you.
Matthew 20:1-16
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
1The kingdom of heaven is like to an householder, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
2And having agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3And going about the third hour, he saw others standing in the market place idle.
4And he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just.
5And they went their way. And again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did in like manner.
6But about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing, and he saith to them: Why stand you here all the day idle?
7They say to him: Because no man hath hired us. He saith to them: Go you also into my vineyard.
8And when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith to his steward: Call the labourers and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first.
9When therefore they were come, that came about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
10But when the first also came, they thought that they should receive more: and they also received every man a penny.
11And receiving it they murmured against the master of the house,
12Saying: These last have worked but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us, that have borne the burden of the day and the heats.
13But he answering said to one of them: Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny?
14Take what is thine, and go thy way: I will also give to this last even as to thee.
15Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? is thy eye evil, because I am good?
16So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.

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