Saturday, September 20, 2014
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Is 55: 6-9 / Ps 145: 2-3, 8-9, 17-18 (18a) / Phil 1: 20c-24, 27a/ Mt 20: 1-16a
First Reading: Isaiah 55: 6-9
Seek Yahweh while he may be found; call to him while he is near. Let the wicked abandon his way, let him forsake his thoughts, let him turn to Yahweh for he will have mercy, for our God is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways, says Yahweh. For as the heavens are above the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.
Second Reading: Philippians 1: 20c-24, 27a
I feel as assured now, as before, that Christ will be exalted through my person, whether I live or die. For to me, living is Christ, and dying is gain. But if I am to go on living, I shall be able to enjoy fruitful labor. Which shall I choose? So I feel torn between the two. I desire greatly to leave this life and to be with Christ, which will be better by far, but it is necessary for you that I remain in this life. Try, then, to adjust your lives according to the Gospel of Christ.
Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16a
This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven. A landowner went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the workers a salary of a silver coin for the day, and sent them to his vineyard. He went out again at about nine in the morning, and seeing others idle in the square, he said to them: 'You, too, go to my vineyard and I will pay you what is just.' So they went. The owner went out at midday and again at three in the afternoon, and he did the same. Finally he went out at the last working hour - it was the eleventh - and he saw others standing there. So he said to them: 'Why do you stay idle the whole day?' They answered: 'Because no one has hired us.' The master said: 'Go and work in my vineyard.' When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager: 'Call the workers and pay them their wage, beginning with the last and ending with the first.' Those who had come to work at the eleventh hour turned up and were given a denarius each (a silver coin). When it was the turn of the first, they thought they would receive more. But they, too, received a denarius each. So, on receiving it, they began to grumble against the landowner. They said: 'These last hardly worked an hour, yet you have treated them the same as us who have endured the day's burden and heat.' The owner said to one of them: 'Friend, I have not been unjust to you. Did we not agree on a denarius a day? So take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last the same as I give to you. Don't I have the right to do as I please with my money? Why are you envious when I am kind?' So will it be: the last will be first, the first will be last."
Today's Gospel reading is centered on grace. Christianity is supremely a religion of grace. Grace teaches us that God does for others what we would never do for them. We would save the not-so-bad. God starts with prostitutes and then works downward from there. Grace is a gift that costs everything to the giver and nothing to the receiver. It is given to those who do not deserve it, barely recognize it, and hardly appreciate it. In the end grace means that no one is too bad to be saved. However, God's grace cannot help us until we are desperate enough to receive it.
It's so easy to take grace for granted. After a time we come to demand grace just like the workers of this parable. In the kingdom of God, there is no such thing as merit. God's grace is granted according to His good pleasure. Many of us identify with the employees who put in a full day's work, rather than the add-ons at the end of the day. We like to think of ourselves as responsible workers and the employer's strange behavior baffles us. But, let's not miss the point of the story: God dispenses gifts, not wages. God's favor is a gift. Like a gift, the only thing we can do with grace is to receive it.
This story shows us the Lord's passion for the forgotten. The workers who were hired last were the leftovers, the least skilled. These workers really represent each one of us. When you think about it, what do we have to offer the Lord? Does He need our intellect? Our strength? Our money? Our good deeds? No. Let our confidence and joy in this life be based not on what we have or do not have or on what we do, or don't do. Rather our confidence is on WHO we have! For on the last day, when we stand before our Savior there will be no distinctions between preachers and taxi drivers. No one is worthier than another to receive salvation because we are all unworthy. Not worthless, but unworthy. The Gospel reading ends with these words: "The last will be first and the first will be last." The first and the last don't matter any more in the kingdom of God. Grace is not about finishing first. It is not about finishing last. It's about not counting at all. It's about not keeping score. It's about having a fresh start whenever we want it.
How do we find God's grace? Just ask for it. That's all. It's really that simple. The more we feel our need for grace, the better candidate we are to receive it. We should hold out our empty hands and ask God for His grace. We will not be turned away. It's never too late. Though your sins are as scarlet, God says they will be white as snow. This is the miracle, the wonder, the scandal, and the shock of God's grace. It truly is "out of this world" for no one in this world would have thought of something like this.
When we get to heaven, there will be no contest to see who was the most deserving of God's grace because no one deserves it. There will only be one contest in heaven. When we look back and see what we were before, when we see the pit from which he rescued us, when we recall how confused we were, when we remember how God reached out and hired us into His family, and how He held us in his hand, and when we see Jesus who loved us and gave himself for us, the only contest will be to see which of us will sing the loudest, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see."
We pray ...
... for a deep and profound respect for life, especially for the unborn
... for all the prayer intentions in the MTQ Dailyprayer Diary
... for families who are in need of healing
... for world peace and reconciliation
Finally, we pray for one another, for those who have asked our prayers and for those who need our prayers the most.
Have a good day!
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