for the twenty-fifth Sunday of the Year
Is 55:6-9 - Ph 1:20c-24, 27a - Mt 20:1-16a
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
God: point of reference
Is 55:6, Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; 7, let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. 9, For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
In today's first reading, the Prophet Isaiah begins by inviting his readers to seek out the Lord; for, he says, the Lord lets himself be found. Who would not search for someone or something sure to be found? We are all eager to possess something or other. Why not seek out God, in order to possess him, one day, for eternity? For God is the supreme Good, the perfect and unique Good par excellence, that Good which we can even touch, through Faith, a Faith animated by prayer said in charity: "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near." (Is 55:6)
In our life, it all consists in our turning toward God, looking in his direction, and learning all from him. "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Is 55:7) To look at God through the eyes of faith, as we await the eternal vision: that is the only goal of the men and women on earth. There is no other. Any other objective, such as, for example, the possession of money or the seeking of pleasure, is vain and useless. For God created us in his likeness and image, thus wanting himself to be our sole happiness!
If we seek God, we will find him, inevitably! Let us get to work! What are we waiting for? For death to overtake us? By then it will be too late... So let us begin! Let us pray to the Lord! He will give us his grace and his Holy Spirit, and then we will not need to be afraid of hearing the Lord himself say: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." (Is 55:8)
Ph 1:20c-24, 27a
Ph 1:20c, Now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22, If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23, I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24, But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25, Convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. 27, Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.
The passage that serves as today's second liturgical reading is rather well known. The great Teresa, Saint Teresa of Avila, the founder of the Discalced Carmelites, underwent a similar situation during her rather busy life, one busy with both prayer and the foundation of numerous monasteries. Like Saint Paul, Saint Teresa of Avila was at the point in her spiritual life in which she was shared between two very strong and indissociable loves: the love of the Lord - a love that surpasses all - and the love of the Church.
On one hand, Saint Teresa would have wanted death to take her so she could enjoy being in the Lord's presence for eternity, in Heaven; on the other hand, she wished to remain with her religious sisters, in order to continue, with them, the expansion of the Kingdom of God on Earth! Like Saint Paul, she could say: "I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account." (Ph 1:23-24)
Mt 20:1, Jesus said to his disciples, «For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2, After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3, And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; 4, and to them he said, `You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went. 5, Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6, And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, `Why do you stand here idle all day?' 7, They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, `You go into the vineyard too.' 8, And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, `Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.' 9, And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10, Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11, And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, 12, saying, `These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' 13, But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14, Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. 15, Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' 16, So the last will be first, and the first last.»
Another Teresa, Saint Theresa of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church, like the great Teresa of Avila, could have commented on this gospel with a simple object lesson. She would have lowered herself before us, and bent towards the ground, her nose almost in the dust, she would have picked up a pin, or anything equally negligible, but when she got up, she would lift up the world on her frail shoulders in order to offer it up to God, with the enthusiasm of her heart full of love! Right in front of us, she would have declared, like a doctor from his podium, that picking up a pin out of love for God could save a soul, or at least convert it!
Assuredly, all of the workers sent by the master did not work in the same manner, nor for an equal time. But it is not the suffering endured, nor the weight of the work borne, that counts in the eyes of the Lord. No. What counts is carrying out his will! With one worker, the master was able to pay a salary of one denarius. With another worker, who had worked for less time than the first, the master was also able to pay a denarius. What is important? The time worked? Or the fact of receiving a denarius, a sign of the reward of eternal life?
Let us not forget what Saint Paul wrote: "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Rm 8:18) Eternal Life is not a right: it is a grace! May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary lead us all on the Way of eternity!