Sunday, Sept. 24, is the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18; Philippians 1:20-24, 27; Matthew 20:1-16.
In today’s Gospel, the Lord himself takes away the veil of our human understanding to show what is really happening, spiritually, to us on earth.
The Gospel begins, “The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.”
If we think of Jesus as waiting patiently for us to honor him, we’re wrong. In fact, Jesus himself takes the initiative. He is up early, looking for us, approaching us and inviting us.
And when he finds us, he sends us to his vineyard, not to enjoy a reward — but to get to work.
Next, “Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You, too, go into the vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’”
Again, we see how Jesus deals with people. The world says, “You snooze, you lose.” If you’re not ready when you should be, you’re out of luck. Not so with Jesus.
He comes back again and again, even at the end of the day, when he says to us what he says to these laborers: “Why do you stand here idle all day?”
He wants us to work for his glory: telling others about him, serving others’ needs, praying and offering sacrifices.
Only after that can we imagine any kind of reward.
When it comes time to pay the laborers, the Gospel reveals more of what God is like: He gives those who worked for one hour the same pay as those who worked throughout the day. God doesn’t reward us according to our accomplishments, but according to our obedience.
St. Paul today illustrates the same principle when he talks about his own work. He is caught between the desire to live and the desire to die for Jesus Christ; to work or to receive his reward.
His response is the attitude one of today’s laborers should have: “Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ and death is gain.” St. Paul saw beyond the veil of earthly appearances to what God is really doing on earth.
He took to heart the Lord’s words in today’s reading from Isaiah. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” he says.
“As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”
Today we pray that God opens our hearts to see the world through his eyes. We do not live in a world with our effort at the center, with God reacting to us. Rather, the world is built around his insistent invitation and our response.
Tom Hoopes is writer
in residence at
Benedictine College and
author of The Fatima