Homily for the twenty-fifth Sunday in the year

Year A  -  Mt. 20:1-16


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"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. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.  And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; and to them he said, `You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 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?' They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, `You go into the vineyard too.'

"«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.' And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, 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.' But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?'

"«So the last will be first, and the first last.»"



Homily:


"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. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard.»"

As usual, Jesus speaks to us of the Kingdom of heaven!  Could it be otherwise?  No, of course not!  Jesus is the Son of God, and he has come to earth to teach us the way that leads to heaven!  Jesus, the Son of the Father, is the one who reveals to us who his Father is, and he also reveals to us the path that leads to the Father, namely Christ himself, the sole mediator between God and men!  Jesus speaks to us of the Kingdom of heaven...  Jesus speaks to us of his Father...  "Our Father, who art in heaven..." (Mt. 6:9)

In order to set us on the right path, so that we might understand, to some extent, what the Kingdom of heaven is, Jesus tells us a parable.  "A householder went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard."  In the Kingdom of heaven, it is God who is the master, it is he who hires workers (that is, us), it is he who sends them to work in his vineyard:  "he sent them into his vineyard."  But let us note that they are sent to ‘work’, not to remain idle (cf. Mt. 20:6).  This means that the Kingdom of heaven does not consist only of the great beyond, the time after death, but also of the present time, which we must use profitably, working in the vineyard of the Lord!  For, in the beyond, there is but rest and bliss, while here below there is "the burden of the day and the scorching heat" (Mt. 20:11).

"«And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; and to them he said, `You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 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?' They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, `You go into the vineyard too.'»"

We have all heard of the ‘workers of the eleventh hour’, which is to say those whom the Lord calls belatedly to work in his vineyard.  We may ask why the Lord calls them so late.  In fact, the Lord may have wanted to call them earlier, so that they might have accomplished more work, but, through their negligence (whether culpable or not), they were not present in the marketplace when the Lord passed by:  they were elsewhere....  Are we not perhaps in this situation today?  Might we be elsewhere, instead of waiting patiently in the marketplace for the Lord to ask us to follow him?  Where is our heart?  Is it outside us?  Or is it in us, the place where the Lord calls us, where he wants to dwell in order to make it into his heaven?  Let us calmly return to ourselves in order to listen to the voice of God...

"«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.' And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, 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.' But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you.»"

It is not rare that we hear grumblings like those of the workers of the first hour.  Justice, indeed, would demand that the workers of the last hour be paid a salary inferior to that received by the workers of the first hour.  But, in the Kingdom of heaven (and let us not forget that this is what we are discussing), things are different.  In fact, since the Kingdom of heaven is already here, within us, to the justice which must be applied at the end of this life is joined another quality of our God:  mercy!  Throughout our life, justice and mercy can never be dissociated from each other.  Otherwise, our life would no longer be that of a Christian...

"«So the last will be first, and the first last.»"

The last will be first...  For they manifest to a greater extent, for all eternity, the infinite mercy of God!  If we have not yet heard the call of the Lord, let us believe even more in his mercy;  let us ask Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to help us to remain patiently attentive to the voice of the Spirit!