Monday, September 12, 2011

September 18, 2011 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 55:6-9
Seek the LORD while he may be found . . . 

Psalm145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
Philippians 1:20-24, 27
Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Matthew 20:1-16 
• The landowner is God.
• The vineyard is the kingdom.
• The workers hired at dawn are the Israelites, to whom He first offered His covenant.
• Those hired later in the day are the Gentiles, the non-Israelites, who, until the coming of Christ, were strangers to the covenants of promise (see Ephesians 2:11-13).

First and Last
The house of Israel is the vine of God - who planted and watered it, preparing the Israelites to bear fruits of righteousness (see Isaiah 5:7; 27:2-5).

Israel failed to yield good fruits and the Lord allowed His vineyard, Israel’s kingdom, to be overrun by conquerors (see Psalm 80:9-20). But God promised that one day He would replant His vineyard and its shoots would blossom to the ends of the earth (see Amos 9:15; Hosea 14:5-10).

This is the biblical backdrop to Jesus’ parable of salvation history in today’s Gospel.
• The landowner is God.
• The vineyard is the kingdom.
• The workers hired at dawn are the Israelites, to whom He first offered His covenant.
• Those hired later in the day are the Gentiles, the non-Israelites, who, until the coming of Christ, were strangers to the covenants of promise (see Ephesians 2:11-13).
In the Lord’s great generosity, the same wages, the same blessings promised to the first-called, the Israelites, will be paid to those called last, the rest of the nations.

This provokes grumbling in today’s parable. Doesn’t the complaint of those first laborers sound like that of the older brother in Jesus’ prodigal son parable (see Luke 15:29-30)? God’s ways, however, are far from our ways, as we hear in today’s First Reading. And today’s readings should caution us against the temptation to resent God’s lavish mercy.

Like the Gentiles, many will be allowed to enter the kingdom late - after having spent most of their days idling in sin.

But even these can call upon Him and find Him near, as we sing in today’s Pslam. We should rejoice that God has compassion on all whom He has created. This should console us, too, especially if we d ones who remain far from the vineyard.

Our task is to continue laboring in His vineyard. As Paul says in Sunday’s Epistle, let us conduct ourselves worthily, struggling to bring all men and women to the praise of His name.

SOURCE: Dr. Scott Hahn

BUT THERE IS MORE! . . . That's Not Fair

The Good Thief by Titian

We have trouble with today’s Gospel because today’s society values the concept of equal pay for equal work.  We argue that this principle is fair, just and, reasonable.  In trying to understand God’s justice, the prophet Isaiah in the first reading tells us that “my thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways.”  Let us look at the difference between Blessed Theresa of Calcutta and St. Dismas.  Mother Teresa spent most of her life in service to God.  She took care of the poorest of the poor, the abandoned, the unwanted, and the unloved.  She worked long and hard in the grueling heat of the Indian sun.  When she died she received her reward, her place in heaven among the blessed.  But then there is St. Dismas.  Dismas is the traditional name given to the Good Thief who was crucified with Jesus on Calvary.  Dismas was a thief and criminal.  Yet, hanging on the cross in the last hours of his life, he recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Dismas said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."  Blessed Theresa of Calcutta worked for years serving God among the poor of India and is welcomed into Paradise.  Dismas, a thief, makes a deathbed conversion and is welcomed into Paradise.  There seems to be something wrong here; something unfair.  Is it God’s ways that are unfair or is it our ways that are unfair?  God wishes that all people be saved.  This is why the Master went out to the marketplace five different times to gather in all who were lost.  Apparently, the people who were there at the “five o’clock hour” were not there at dawn, or at nine, or at noon, or at three because the Master hired all those who were available at those earlier times.  Yet the excuse the late workers give for not working was “because no one has hired us.”  That means they were either too lazy to answer the first four calls or else they were lying about being in the marketplace all day.  Those who worked the full day were also not totally free from guilt for they grumbled and were jealous of the late workers and greedy about their pay.  As Pope Benedict has written in his encyclical on hope, “There is a God, and God can create justice in a way that we cannot conceive, yet we can begin to grasp it through faith.  Yes, there is a resurrection of the flesh.  There is justice. There is an “undoing” of past suffering, a reparation that sets things right. . . I am convinced,” the Pope writes, “that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, in any case the strongest argument, in favor of faith in eternal life.”  How is this justice to be achieved in the next life?  There are two answers to that question.  The first answer is purgatory.  Purgatory is that intermediate “pit stop” before we enter heaven.  Purgatory is that place where we are purged of all the jealousies of our pride.  Those who worked in the heat of the day were jealous of the late-comers and prideful of the fact of how long they had worked in the vineyard.  Purgatory is also the place where the temporal consequences of sins already forgiven can be worked out.  This is where the lying and the neglect of the late-comers is equaled out.  Why then not just wait until the end of our life to become a worker in God’s vineyard, if every worker gets into heaven at the end of the day.  Why not wait until the five o’clock hour to join God’s work crew, if the rewards are the same.   One reason is that if you wait until 5 pm to join crew, you could die at 4:55 pm.  You could end up like the unrepentant thief and end up in hell rather than the good thief who ended up in Paradise.  St. Therese of Lisieux gives another reason why we should deepen our relationship with God, rather than wait for a deathbed conversion.   St. Therese thought about the glory of the saints in heaven.  If we compare a large drinking glass full of water to a little thimble full of water, they are both full.  So too with God’s love, no one will feel excluded or empty because they have not done great things.  They will be full of the love of God as much as they can hold.  The only question is how big will our souls be when we reach heaven.  The more we work on it, the greater will be our capacity for loving God.  

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