24 Sept 2023 – 25th Sunday, (A)

24 Sept 2023 – 25th Sunday, (A)

This Sunday is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Link to resources:

“Seek the Lord while he may be found.” But on the other hand, God’s mercy is beyond measure, so that even those who come late to his vineyard will be welcomed by his infinite love. We all can identify with those workers of the eleventh hour, whom the master of the vineyard treats so well. As Isaiah said, God never ignores the needs and prayers of those who are humble in heart

(1) Isaiah 55:6-9

Turn to the Lord in urgent prayer; for he never ignores the prayer of the humble

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundanly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Responsorial: Psalm 144:2-3, 8-9, 17-18

R./: The Lord is near to all who call him

I will bless you day after day
and praise your name for ever.
The Lord is great, highly to be praised,
his greatness cannot be measured. (R./)

The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
How good is the Lord to all,
compassionate to all his creatures. (R./)

The Lord is just in all his ways
and loving in all his deeds.
He is close to all who call him,
who call on him from their hearts. (R./)

(2) Philippians 1:20-24, 27

Though Paul wants to be with Christ in heaven, he will serve the Gospel as long as God wills it

It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.

Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16

The parable of the workers in the vineyard; God welcomes all into his kingdom

Jesus said to his disciples: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.’

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.

Now when the first came they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 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 the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


Only God sees the full picture

The core of the Gospel parable is also in the Isaiah passage: “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” Try as we may, it is impossible to justify the payment of the workers in the vineyard in ordinary social terms. It could hardly be said to be fair. Yes, the owner is generous to the last comers, but why is he not generous to the others as well? It is simply that there is no reckoning up deserts when man meets God.

In Our Lord’s time Judaism had reached a legalistic state, and the mentality was prevalent that salvation could and must be earned. There were many commands which must be fulfilled, and people were divided into two classes, the righteous who were on the road to salvation by fulfilling the commands, and the unrighteous, outcasts despised by those who kept the law. It was this slot-machine conception of God that Jesus opposed by his emphasis on love, for in love there is no calculation of duties, rights and obligations; there is only an open-handed giving without counting the cost, and a grateful receiving. We can never say that we have earned our salvation, or anything from God, but can only stand suppliant before him. The latest workers in the vine-yard have not earned what the owner gives them, and the mistake of their envious colleagues is to think that they can deserve well of the owner.

Devout Christians may find it hard to stomach that someone who repents on his deathbed is admitted to the kingdom no less than those who have struggled and suffered all their lives for what is right. But this would presuppose a commercial attitude of reward and punishments from God, and it neglects the nature of love. The relationship of the believer to God must be personal love, and as such it is its own reward, for it brings its own happiness also in this life. The greater the struggle, the more a Christian turns to God and finds comfort in the security of his love. Also, fidelity through a long life does bring some advantage over a skimpy final conversion, for it may well be that the relationship of love has so deepened over the years that the Christian, faithfully following Christ, has more capacity for the full enjoyment of God’s company than one who comes to know God only at the last moment. Here it is not a matter of God giving a greater reward, but of the person being more capable of receiving it.

Of this deep and rewarding relationship with God and with Christ Paul shows himself in the second reading to be a shining example. Writing as he does under persecution he is yet filled with the joy of Christ. His life is already united with Christ’s life, and he longs for the fulfilment of final union.

The parable of the vineyard-workers is no blueprint for labour relations, but it illustrates very well Jesus’ teaching about grace and mercy. There are consequences to be drawn, and, in The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis wrote: “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” (§114)


  1. Thara Benedicta says:

    Key Message:
    The last will be the first and the first will be the last.

    Our Lord Jesus is encouraging us to have hope that God has planned a bright future for each one of us through today’s Gospel reading. Many of us look at our friends, peers, or relatives and feel that we are lesser than them. Though we struggle hard, and do things in the right way, somewhere they have reached heights that are difficult to achieve. We do face hardships like late marriage, broken marriage, childlessness, slow career growth or health challenges and so on.

    I spoke to an elderly person, who has led a decent life with well-settled children. I said: “When you look back at your life, what do you see?” His immediate answer was, “My career was a failure. I have not succeeded as much as my friends”. But his life as a whole was a big success. He was taken care of well in his old age, and he was able to provide professional education for his children, they were doing very well in their careers, but when he compared his official designation with his friend’s designation he couldn’t feel happy about it. With his job, he was able to fund his family and do charity so in reality, his career was a big success. So according to the records in God’s book, he was successful in his career too. Though in his own eyes, he was seen as the last, in God’s eyes, he is always seen as the “first” not the “last”.

    There is a major wave of suffering due to longing to get married, to get settled in a career or to have children, and so on. In the pages of the Holy Bible, we see that where there is a great delay on purpose there is a great blessing. Zacharias and St. Elizabeth were quite old when they were blessed with John the Baptist. St. Elizabeth would have longed to get pregnant whenever she saw a pregnant woman. But she gave birth to the one to whom our Lord Jesus Himself testified, “There is no man born out of a woman as great as John the Baptist”. So this delay was required to prepare Zacharias and St. Elizabeth for such a great blessing!! Were they first or last? God always saw them as “first” never as the “last”.

    We need to be enthusiastic during our ‘wait time’ also because our God has been preparing for us a greater glory. For instance, when the Angel announced to Zacharias that he was going to have a baby, he did not believe it. So to prevent him from saying anything negative, the Angel had to shut his mouth. Otherwise, by his own words, he would have stopped the blessing. When the Angel announced the impossible thing to our Mamma Mary, that she will conceive as a virgin itself, immediately Mamma Mary said, “I am the Lord’s slave. Let it happen unto me according to your word”. Our Mamma Mary’s heart was ready to accept the “impossible promises” of God since she knew that nothing was impossible for God. God’s blessing is set by the mind of God. It will be a surprise and beyond comprehension for our human mind.

    As we see in today’s Gospel reading, the ‘wait time’ may be more for us. It’s ok to wait since Jesus will not miss noticing us. When that sick person in the pool of Bethesda was lying there for 38 years, not knowing what to do, fully helpless, our Lord Jesus went in search of him and cured him. He said, “Take your mat and go away from this place”. Our Lord Jesus does not like to see us always in tears, lying down all the time. He wants us to be happy. He has planned only a bright future for us, not to sit and weep beside Bethesda all our lives.

    There are some challenges that come our way on the road to achieving our goal. Life will take us to some places where we have never been and never want to be. Even if we do not have the slightest idea of how to live our lives, let us not panic. God will find us a way to get us through it. The important thing is only to be with God. Let us consider the life of Joseph in the Old Testament. Through no fault of his, Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers to a foreign land. When he maintained his integrity before God, he was accused of the worst crime and sent to prison. The shame caused by the unjust accusation would have crushed Joseph’s heart more than the prison walls. But God converted his shame into great glory even in the foreign land because he was just before God. Joseph would have realised, “Once upon a time, I was the lost bro, but now God made me the first”.

    There is nothing in our lives that God cannot handle. Nothing is lost. For whatever we have lost, God will compensate. He will compensate for all our agonies.

    Our trials can never push us to the last since our God will push us to the first!!

  2. One wonders, is there any benefit in converting early? Are we encouraged to explore? A full day in the vineyard or a whole life spent by the father’s side (in the case of the elder brother) did not result in wisdom, just bitterness. Help.

    1. Thara Benedicta says:

      We find the answer to this query in the Autobiography of St. Thérèse – there is a difference in the calling for each one. All are not assigned to do the same amount of work in the Divine ministry. St. Thérèse also has the same query and finds the answer as she quotes in her Autobiography.
      “Our Lord has deigned to explain this mystery to me. He showed me the book of nature, and I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would lose its springtide beauty, and the fields would no longer be enamelled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord’s living garden. He has been pleased to create great Saints who may be compared to the lily and the rose, but He has also created lesser ones, who must be content to be daisies or simple violets flowering at His Feet, and whose mission it is to gladden His Divine Eyes when He deigns to look down on them. And the more gladly they do His Will the greater is their perfection.”

      When God calls us, He also provides His grace to labour for Him. The more the time and the more brilliance of His grace, the more we can labour for Him.
      All the great souls who have laboured hard for the salvation of the souls and all the souls who repented just a few minutes before their death, enter Heaven as promised by God. But the Remembrance Book of God has recorded the work. And it is the happiness and satisfaction of knowing and experiencing God makes the hard day’s labour under the sun also more worthwhile. St. Paul couldn’t be satisfied if he had repented like the good thief in the last moments of his life. If Little Thérèse of the Child Jesus had been the first son, she would have been happy like the father of the prodigal son to have her brother back.

      Little Thérèse was called from her birth and the good thief was called near his death. Both are different varieties of flowers in the garden of our God.
      All our Catholic priests and nuns have sacrificed their entire life for love of God. Certainly Heaven is not the only goal. They are the roses and lilies adorning the beautiful garden of our God.

      1. Thank you for your inspiring reply and thanks to the writer of the main homily. God bless.

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