HOMILIES: 25TH SUNDAY HOMILY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR A
BY: Fr. Jude Nnadi
HOMILY THEME: My thoughts are not your thoughts.
Reading: Is 55: 6-9; Phil 1: 20 – 27; Mt 20: 1-16
“My thoughts are not your thoughts; nor are your ways my ways.” This phrase, taken from the last page of the Second Isaiah, was chosen to justify the behavior of the protagonist of today’s gospel parable. A strange behavior, apparently irrational, when judged according to normal economic criteria. We are therefore dutybound to identify the exact meaning of this story whose well-known final sentence alone is provocative: “The last will be first and the first will be last”. And it is precisely on this “first-last” contrast that the parable finds its spiritual meaning.
The story unfolds around two points. The first is that of the progressive enlistment of workers but with the same salary; the second is represented by the indignation of the “first” hires. The concrete situation from which the message of the parable begins is a situation typical of the life of Jesus, testified to by the Gospels. The “Pharisees”, the “just”, the “first” are scandalized that Jesus also offers the same salvation to the “repentant sinners”, the “last”. In fact, the worker called first, in the parable, does not ask for a higher salary but above all complains about the equality of treatment reserved for him and the last arrival. The parable is addressed, then, to people who copy these “grumblers” (murmurers) behavior. Let us not forget that in the Bible the verb “to grumble”, “to murmur” refers to lack of faith. The message is therefore targeted at those scandalized by the opening of the Kingdom of God and the Gospel of Christ to sinners, the humble, the least of the earth.
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This fundamental message of the parable is widely debated in the experience of the early church, that is, whether salvation in Christ Jesus is a national and cultural heritage or open and universal to all peoples and cultures. In Jesus’ parable, salvation is for everyone, Jews, and Gentiles, righteous and repentant sinners. The ancient alliance, based on law and justice, opens – as Jeremiah announced (13:31-34) – to the new alliance founded on grace and forgiveness. The Kingdom is a gift from God and not a wage for the works of the law; salvation is not an almost contractual reward but is first and foremost a divine initiative made of love and communion in which humanity is invited to participate with joy and without limitations.
A Christian is, therefore, invited to follow the style of the owner of the vineyard, the style of Jesus. It is not based first on merit or strict justice but should allow himself to be conquered by the free and generous love that gives and continued giving even to those who have no rights to claim. Against every “economic” and self-centered conception of our commitment towards others, we are invited to a free generosity, like Christ who offers himself to sinners, the sick, the ignorant without restrictions or squeamish attitudes.
The manifestation of pure and total love is the perfect imitation of the heavenly Father “who makes his sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Mt 5, 45). This parable, then, is a song of grace and the infinite love of God.
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