25TH SUNDAY HOMILY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR A
By: Rev. Sylvanus Amaobi
HOMILY THEME: let us rejoice and be glad in it.
(1st Reading, Is. 55:6-9; 2nd Reading, Phil. 1:20-24,27; Gospel, Matt. 20:1-16)
Dear brothers and sisters, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
In the Gospel of today, Jesus Christ told a parable of a landowner who went out at different hours to hire laborers for his vineyard. Some he hired about nine o’clock and agreed on a usual daily wage, others at noon, while some others around three o’clock, promising to give them what is just. Finally, around five o’clock, he hired the final set of laborers. The implication is that those hired earlier did more work and suffered the scorching effects of the sun more than those hired later in the evening. But when it was time for the landowner to pay the laborers, beginning with the last and ending with the first, each received the usual daily wage.
But, this did not go well with the laborers who were hired earlier. Thus, they grumbled against the landowner, complaining that those last laborers worked only for one hour. What the landowner did surprised everyone, even those of us today listening to the Gospel message. Several questions come to mind. Was the landowner just? Was he fair to those who started work earlier? Did he cheat those who started earlier than others? Was his action logical and reasonable? What message did Jesus intend by this parable? We might contend that Christ’s story is against practical human reasoning and dealings. But in the first reading, the Lord already said, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (Is. 55:8).
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There is no doubt that the landowner stipulated what he was going to pay to the laborers. He made it clear that it would be the usual daily wage. Let us assume this is the limit beyond which nothing can be given or added. To the extent that he made it clear what he would pay and paid the same, he can never be said to be unfair or unjust. To that extent, too, he was reasonable and logical. Let us also understand that those laborers who were hired later did not just decide to be lazy and refuse to work. When the landowner asked them, “Why do you stand here idle all day?” They answered, “Because no one has hired us.” This answer changes the trajectory of the whole discussion.
Jesus Christ told this parable to teach us so many things regarding the kingdom of heaven. The Kingdom of God is not a merit-oriented place. It is a gratuitous gift of God. The kingdom of God is the ultimate reward to be given to those who labor in the vineyard of the Lord. There is nothing greater than it. It did not really matter when one started. What matters is being rewarded with the ultimate gift, heaven, which is the final wage given to those who labor for the Lord. Some have the privilege of starting earlier in life to know God, love God, and work for God, while others, like St Augustine, would lament, “Of late have I loved (known) you, beauty so old and so new, late have I loved (known) you.” We should not forget that there are those who found themselves in this situation, who were not brought to the knowledge of the Lord through no fault of theirs. Like the laborers in the parable, no one hired them even though they were ready to be hired.
We should rejoice and be happy if, one day, even those who did wrong during their whole life receive from God the gift of repentance and salvation. We should not grumble but be thankful to God for His generosity of salvation. Indeed, no one has the right to feel that they are “veterans” because they were converted to Christ before others. Let us seek Him now that He may be found and call upon Him while he is near.
Always remember that Jesus loves you!
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