25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First reading: Is. 55:6–9

Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. 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.

Second reading: Phil. 1:20c–24,27a

Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.

Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Gospel: Mt. 20:1–16a

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily 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.”

In other words

by Fr. Abs Borja, SVD (Taiwan)

“Love looks through a telescope; envy through a microscope.” – Josh Billings 

In today’s parable, the ultimate question raised by the landowner, representing God, to the early hires, “Are you envious because I am generous?” evokes two contrasting realities: The envious people and the generous God.

The envious people.

The first hires operate with the work and wages formula—the amount of wage should be proportional to the work done. These calculative minds look at the details meticulously and, more often, in a selfish and negative way. Such an approach creates a chain of unbecoming attitudes like false expectations and a strong desire to acquire more than the others, disregarding an agreement, complaining to the point of accusing someone of injustice, and trumpeting one’s accomplishments.

Moreover, the first hires could not rejoice at the reward of the last hires nor appreciate the goodness shown by the landowner. Why? Because their attention is focused on material things given to others and not on the persons who received something. The interest in the goods rather than persons blocks any little act of kindness and charity towards the less fortunate. Material-oriented first-hires fail to be considerate of the needs of the last-hires.

The generous God.

The charitable act of the landowner, i.e., the “God who is generous” (Is. 55:7), is demonstrated in many ways. He goes out untiringly to reach out to different groups. He does the hiring personally instead of delegating the task to someone else. He searches diligently to find those seemingly rejected by others (“no one has hired us”). He engages in conversation with people and understands their situations. He invites everyone and brings in as many people as possible into his vineyard. In giving rewards, he does not care much about the time spent in work nor the result of the work; rather, he cares much about the person who did the work. With a compassionate heart, he gives lavishly to the disadvantaged. The generous landowner gives his all—himself, time, and space.

The parable challenges us to overcome the calculative minds of envious people and learn to become more like the compassionate and generous landowner. In the words of St. Paul, “to conduct [ourselves] in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27). In this way, the Kingdom of God becomes truly alive among us, and God is praised. St John Chrysostom advised, “Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother’s progress, and you will immediately give glory to God. Because his servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the merits of others, God will be praised” (CCC, no. 2540).

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