Homily for XXV (25) Sunday Year A. 20-09-2020 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Isaiah 55:6-9
Psalm: Psalm 144 (145): 2-3, 8-9, 17-18
Second Reading: Philippians 1:20-24, 27
Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16
Our first reading of today concludes the second part of the book of the prophet Isaiah. While Isaiah gives us the beautiful injunction to turn away from evil and seek the Lord, he reminds us in the words of the Lord Himself “…for my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways…” In different ways this statement actually holds true and quite frankly it summarises what our experience of God is like. In the course of seeking Him and following Him, there are many uncertainties on the way, some are pleasant while some are not so pleasant. At times we are met with misfortunes and hardships on the way and we cry, ‘God why? God what is happening?’ But at other times we are also graced to receive unmerited goodies and favours in our lives even without our efforts and expectation, and most times we just go ahead to rejoice without even remembering to thank God. In as much as we do not and cannot understand God completely, we do not question Him in such moments of prosperity but only in moments of adversity. Nevertheless, it is still very much comforting to think and accept that God is not like ourselves. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He is not a being like us and is not limited by space and time like we are but is in every way better than us. As such He certainly would not think and act like us. This is what He demonstrates to us also in the gospel pericope of today where He shows us the meeting point between His justice and mercy, and that is charity.
We see this charity of God in the manner the master treated all the labourers – the same daily wage of one denarius for each labourer. For those hired first, they felt He was being unjust but His action is to teach us that there is dignity in labour and whatever we have is given to us by the Lord. It is true that the last labourers definitely did not put in the same amount of energy into the work in His vineyard. Isn’t it unfair to those who laboured all day to receive the same wage with those who worked for less than an hour? This is human logic which always falls short of comprehending divine realities, and it is the reason why the labourers grumbled at the master for treating all of them the same way. However, Christ uses this story to show us God’s extraordinary generosity and compassion towards the suffering, and to teach us that God’s justice is different from the human understanding of justice.
God as the landowner was being sensitive to the plight of the unemployed, which is why He hired the labourers in the first place. These were people who were out of work and were unable to earn a daily living and support themselves and their families but for no fault of theirs. They were qualified and capable of working and made themselves available for work but they had to wait to be employed. It was so because in Jesus’ time labourers had to wait each day in the public marketplace to be hired for a day’s job. And no work any day usually meant no food on the family table for you and your household for that day. The labourers hired from morning already had the assurance of a daily bread for themselves and their families for that day. They could smile the whole day with their minds at rest, while those labourers hired in the evening had no hope of eating for that day until the landowner came to hire them at the eleventh hour. Undoubtedly the master did hire them in the late afternoon so they wouldn’t go home payless and hungry, and they became the first to receive their pay. They were paid first because being with no work, no income and no social security and support, they were perturbed and had suffered more than the labourers who were employed all day. Christ is bringing out the point here that work is not a punishment, for there is dignity of labour. Rather it is unemployment that is a punishment and undignifying, and must be overcome at all cost. Obviously, having to wait up to the eleventh hour requires much more than courage but an act of profound faith since it was even impossible to still get hired at this time of the hour. No one would still hire anyone to work for just one hour, yet the incredible thing is that though on the verge of the close of the day, they never gave up hoping for someone to hire them so they could earn a daily living. It was at this point that the Lord came to their aid, but the other labourers grumbled.
Many a times on our journey of life we are also like the labourers hired earlier who grumbled. We only concern ourselves with our own good without thinking about our neighbour who is wallowing in suffering and poverty. But when suddenly there is a breakthrough in the life of our neighbour, we begin to see our neighbour as undeserving of such favour and blessing from God. We selfishly feel that we alone deserve the blessings of God for our faithfulness and service to Him and we forget that His blessings are gratuitous. His ways are different from ours and His thoughts are different from our thoughts. No doubt God loves us for being faithful to Him throughout and living out our faith actively throughout our lives. When we live in this manner, we enjoy the gracious benefits of dwelling with the Lord and being in communion with Him. Nevertheless, there are those people who respond to God’s mercy in the evening of their lives when we think it is already too late. Because of His love for all His children, God welcomes them too into His family. To be away from the Lord is already a greater punishment that when a sinner repents and comes back to God at any point at all, He forgives such sinner. This is why St. Augustine after his late conversion mourned and exclaimed, “late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient ever new. Late have I loved you.” He had realized how much He had missed God’s grace. At such point we must not grumble and we must not be envious of such people like the labourers hired earlier today, but instead we are to rejoice with them for having found God, and accept them into God’s family as one with us and not inferior to us.
Ask yourself today then if you still feel that some people are sinners too terrible to be forgiven. If you think so, what about yourself? And do you still feel there are some people who do not deserve God’s blessings and favours? Remember that we are not called to judge but to love and as a result be our brother and sister’s keeper. Ask yourself also if you are in such a sinful state that you have given up on God’s mercy. Do you feel it is too late to come back to God? Know that He stands knocking at the door of your heart waiting for you to open so that He can come in. Make haste to use the sacrament of reconciliation. Do not harden your heart by thinking that it is too late to welcome Him into your life, for He is the God of time and He can make all things new for you once again and turn your evening into a new dawn. If you are someone asking for a particular favour or blessing from God and you are getting discouraged, worn out, tired of asking and hoping, look at the last labourers who were hired at the eleventh hour when it was humanly impossible and know that God sees all your efforts and will definitely come to your rescue. Maybe you are struggling to break away from a particular sinful addiction or a bad habit and with all your efforts, it seems as if you have not even started the struggle. Some of us have even abandoned the faith because some of our expectations were not met. Today He tells you, never to give up, but know that faith indeed sees impossibility and laughs. He wants you to be steadfast without giving up, bearing in mind that as He is the author of time, He can answer you at the first hour when you consider early but He can also answer you at the eleventh hour when you think it is too late. Remember that God’s time is always the best and “they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).” May the Lord give us genuine love to always care for one another sincerely and the unwavering faith and patience to wait on Him in all situations we find ourselves. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
Homily - XXV (25) Sunday Year A. 20-09-2020 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
20 September 2020
Homily for XXV (25) Sunday Year A. 20-09-2020 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.