This Sunday is the 25th Sunday in ordinary time. The theme of today’s readings is justice and the extravagant grace of a merciful and loving God. While God is both just and merciful, His mercy often overrides His justice. Hence, God pardons us unconditionally and rewards us generously by opening Heaven for everyone. God rewards us, not by what we do, but according to His goodwill.
Today’s first reading is meant to give hope and to keep the Chosen people from losing Faith in God. For that matter, the entirety of Chapter 55 promises both material and spiritual blessings. Isaiah reminded the people that their years of ignoring their Covenant with God had brought them many problems such as leaving their cities destroyed, their Temple razed, their wealth plundered and their hopes dashed. However, because of God’s great love and mercy, His chosen people were to be forgiven. They would return home, their land would be restored to them and their covenantal relationship with God would be reestablished.
Isaiah reminds us that God is more merciful and forgiving than we are. As Isaiah says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.” The prophet tells us to adopt God’s ways instead of asking questions and doubting God’s graciousness. Our Faith teaches us that, as a loving Father, God knows us and acts only for our good. God is near to us in this life, and if we remain near to Him on this earth, we can trust in His love and goodness to keep us near Him forever in Heaven.
In today’s second reading, Paul tells the Philippians that once they become followers of Jesus, their true citizenship is in Heaven. Paul tells them that they ought to change their ways and follow the teachings of the Gospel. The Philippians had received the Gospel from Paul eagerly, and they supported him on his further missionary travels. Paul was therefore very grateful, and his epistle gives them mature Pauline thought for a mature community, expressed in unusually personal terms.
The parable described in today’s Gospel is known as “the Parable of Workers in the Vineyard” or “the Parable of the Generous Landlord.” This remarkable parable is found only in the book of Matthew, and reminds us that God owes us nothing. He gives abundantly and equally. The reading tells us that it’s never too late for God. A full wage is offered to each of us, whether one has served him for a whole lifetime, or has turned to Him only at the eleventh hour. This story of the landlord’s love and generosity represents God’s love and generosity to us. God’s provisions for our spiritual lives will never run out, and when we share our blessings with others, we tap into the inexhaustible Divine supply. The story shows us how God looks at us, sees our needs and meets those needs. The question in God’s mind is not, “How much do these people deserve?” but, “How can I help them? How can I save them from perishing?” It is all about grace, the extravagant grace of a merciful and loving God.
God personally calls each of us to our own ministry and shows us His care by giving us His grace and eternal salvation. To God, we are more than just numbers on a payroll. Our call to God’s vineyard is a free gift from God for which we can never be sufficiently thankful. All our talents and blessings are freely given to us by our gracious God. Hence, we should express our gratitude to God by rendering loving service to others, the poor and the needy.
We can be generous in the way we give a person encouragement and a kind word when he is feeling down even though he might not be one of our best buddies. We can be generous in the way we give of our time to help someone going through a tough time. When someone says something that offends us, we can be generous in our reaction and sympathize, and understand, rather than give back the hostility or injury just as it was given to us. When we have fallen out with someone or believe we have been unfairly treated, we can be generous in our willingness to reach out, make amends and restore friendships. When someone really annoys us and gets under our skin, we can be generous with our patience and kindness and deal with that person in a way that reflects the generous nature of God. In this way we become children of our loving God who treats everyone with justice and fairness.
Father Patrick Kiernan changed his plan and will not be joining us. Please keep him in your prayers. The priests of our diocese will be on retreat next week. Please keep us all in your prayers.