In our first reading today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we hear Isaiah encourage the people of Israel to seek the Lord. The seeking involves acknowledging sinfulness and then changing their ways. Isaiah reminds the people of Israel that the way God thinks, and the way God acts is different from the way they think and act.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about the owner of a vineyard who goes looking for people/workers in the marketplace at various moments during the day and he hires them to work in the vineyard. When the end of the day comes, he pays those who have worked only a few hours the same as those who have worked all day. The reaction of those who have worked all day suggests anger, resentment and perhaps bitterness. The owner asks them if they have been treated unjustly. They have not. The owner suggests that since it is his money, he has the right to be generous does he not? Jesus concludes the parable by suggesting that in the Kingdom of God human logic is dismissed in favor of God’s logic. Those who are first shall be last and vice versa!
In our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Christians at Philippi, we hear Paul talk about how Christ is revealed. Paul says that in his living and his dying Christ is revealed. Paul speaks of being pulled in two directions. While Paul would love to be with Christ, he recognizes the importance of remaining and helping the Christians at Philippi live their lives in a way that is worthy of Christ. He reminds them that this is their obligation – to live in a way that reflects the truth of the Gospel.
So what is the connection between these readings and our personal life experience?
Have you ever said, “that is so not fair!” or “I wish I had an easy job like that!” or “I resent the fact that they get away with that and I am expected to be the faithful one.” Or “I work way harder than they do and I get paid less!” or “For the work they do, they get paid way too much!”
While some of us suggest that we never sin – the fact is most of us do sin. Despite our protests we make good use of the sin of envy! We want what others have. We think we deserve more than what we get!
Today our gospel reminds us that in the Kingdom of God the way Jesus thinks and the way Jesus acts are different from the way we think and act. The people we would normally put first, God puts last. The people we would normally put last God puts first. Our work as Christians is to live in a way that Christ is revealed/recognized in what we say and do. Our work as Christians is to seek the Lord, to sin less and to be more like God. We are called to recognize our sin and slowly work at changing the way we behave so that sin becomes less of a driving force in our words and in our actions.
There are a couple of things in the Gospel that we would do well to imitate, that we would do well to practice in our daily life. In the parable, the vineyard owner is like God. What does he do?
During this pandemic I have read stories of Catholics being upset because their access to the Church building has changed, they cannot pray as they once did. While coming to the Church building is important and praying in the Church building is important, the purpose of gathering in the Church building is to help us to be better disciples of Jesus. It is easy to be a disciple of Jesus here. We are to be disciples of Jesus in our daily life – in our homes and in our workplaces. We ought to be doing what Jesus does – what God expects of us.
What God expects of us is made clear in Chapter 25 of Matthew’s gospel. Feed the hungry, give water to those who are thirsty, welcome the stranger, care for the sick, clothe the naked, and visit those who are imprisoned. We are reminded of that again today. We ought to be looking for God in those who are most in need. We ought to be doing what God asks of us. We ought to remember our destiny – God is going to reward us and our reward is union, communion with him in heaven. Our destiny is the Kingdom of God.
We are not to worry about how much work others do. We are to be faithful to the work we have been given – to the work we have said yes to. Our God is generous and our God will be generous with us! In turn, we take that generosity and extend it to others.
Today we are being fed – with God’s word and with the Body of Christ. We are being supported by the prayer of our brothers and sisters present here…Let us take the life given to us by God’s Word, let us take the life that is given to us by the Body of Christ, let us take the life that is given to us by the support and prayer of our brothers and sisters and let us reach out to others. Let us comfort them, encourage them, feed them, and make sure they feel welcome. Let us strip from our lives envy, pride, jealousy, hatred and slander. These things destroy us! When we do them we destroy others too!
Perhaps when we gather next weekend for our Sunday celebration others will want to join us because they have experienced firsthand that Christ is Lord in our life. They will experience that we do what God does and maybe, just maybe they will want to become like us because they see in us the goodness and the love of God.
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI