25th Sun. in Ord. Time Yr A 9-24-23 Dcn. Bill Kenney

25th Sun. in Ord. Time Yr A Called and chosen by God’s great love

(Is 55:6-9; Phil 1:20c-24, 27a; Mt 20:1-16a)

     My grandfather once explained to me the long lines of able-bodied workers awaiting work assignments and food bread lines during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. You may have seen old news reels. Fast forward to today’s news broadcasts- thousands of homeless and unemployed immigrants line city streets awaiting work and provisions.  Work is indeed a valued blessing offering dignity, purpose, and hope in people’s lives. 

     These scenes remind me of our gospel reading from Matthew: the parable of the workers in the vineyard. This is yet another illustration from Jesus teaching us the nature and inhabitants of the Kingdom of Heaven. In the parable, to be clear, we are the workers, the vineyard is our faith, and God is the Landowner. Even though workers started in the vineyard at different hours, at the end of the day they all received the same wage, or heavenly reward. Does that sound fair? Would that fly with today’s labor contracts? Where’s the justice?! They wanted equity but expressed envy. It’s like the older brother slighting his prodigal younger brother for returning to a joyful

reception after leading a life of debauchery. It’s like condemning the

 good thief for stealing paradise by his one-time act of faith after living a life of sin. It’s like criticizing a philanthropist for his wealth that we wish we had. This is how mankind’s misguided envy, a sub-set of pride, divides and confounds our relationships with each other and with God.

     In this parable, our sense of justice is scandalized by the Landowner’s generosity. He is too generous to the workers who worked the least! The general idea of the parable is that everyone is called to the vineyard of faith at different times in their lives. Some people are lifelong disciples of Jesus, others convert only toward the end of their lives. In the kingdom of heaven, both groups are welcomed and treated the same. The only wage that matters is eternal life with God.

     In our present world affairs, we seek equality, diversity, fairness, and justice. We establish government agencies and labor unions to control work in society. But our vision is limited as we are finite creatures. We don’t know the big picture or future unintended

consequences of our actions. It is God’s infinite goodness, wisdom, and love beyond our understanding that makes the Lord just in all

his ways and holy in all his works. A repentant sinner and a lost sheep returning to the fold find great justice from God’s still greater love.  God’s love is greater than his justice.  

       The parable also explains how the workers were chosen. Those first selected were perhaps true disciples, ready and hungry for the vineyard. The work was plentiful so the Landowner chose more workers. The last ones, perhaps a marginal group, were standing around idle because no one had hired them. They may have not known the Landowner nor worked in his vineyard before. The workers may have come from all walks of life with different skills and life circumstances. Even for the varying work hours, all were justly called, chosen, and paid to work in the vineyard.

     We too are called and chosen to cultivate our faith for a fruitful harvest. Beginning with our families, we open our hearts to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to nurture our faith and love for each

other and for Christ. As a family of believers, we should:

-pray together,

-read Scripture together,

-worship at Mass and Adoration together,

-and receive the sacraments together.

This is our faith at work in the vineyard; our wage is eternal life in Christ.

         Through reception of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, we grow in relationship and unity with Christ. During today’s conferring of the Anointing of the Sick, may God increase and bless these chosen workers in his vineyard. As workers, may they keep in mind God’s love, generosity, and healing providence.

        O God of mercy, guide us toward spiritual growth, fill our minds with thoughts of truth, justice and love. Help us to forego envy and bitterness in our hearts. Help us to better understand your will in our lives and trust in your ways. Through the Spirit of joy and cooperation may we work together to grow a strong and vibrant vineyard, for the life of the Church and for the glory of God.