20 September 202025 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
25 Ordinary Time

Twenty-Fifth Sunday of the Year - Cycle A - Matthew 20:1-16

A priest in New Orleans after Katrina saw a child with one shoe. He asked where she had lost the other. The girl replied, "I didn't. I found this one."

God tells us through this parable: "Don't cut me down to your size. You fashion God to your image, but I am an original."

This may be the most puzzling of the forty parables of Jesus. It is found only in Matthew. Perhaps Mark, Luke, and John were afraid to touch it. Yet, when it is thrown on the lab table and heated over a Bunson burner, it teaches much about God. He tells us how those of us who have extra bucks should treat the poor. Christ tells us of people's right to a job at a family living wage.

Today's minimum wage is peanuts. In 2004, over 50% of US income went to the top 20% of our households. In 2002 and 2003, a woman with a $7 million home paid only $771 in federal taxes. In 2004, Americans spent 34 billion on their pets. One woman's will left twelve million dollars to her dog. Result? Christ is ticked off big time.

There are 2000 verses on the poor in the Bible. Get the feeling that God is telling us something?

Two thirds of Christ's parables concern money. He knew dollars were important. This is not a pie in the sky Jesus.bThe laborers of the parable were the lowest class of Jewish workingmen. They lived on the poverty level. If they were unemployed for a day, their family went to bed hungry. Their situation was known to be so bad that when they were hired for a day's work, the Bible commanded they be paid before sundown. Thus, they were able to shop at Wal-Mart for supper.

There were seasons in Palestine when this tale occurred. These were at grape harvest in the fall. By mid-September came torrential rains. Thus began the frantic effort to save the grapes. Every laborer was drafted. (William Barclay)

The Jewish farmer worked from sunrise to sunset. It was a brutal twelve hour day in 100 plus degrees heat. The times when the migrant workers would be hired were at 6 AM, 9, noon, 3 PM, and 5. With storms coming, the vineyard owner pushed the panic button and hustled to find men as late as 5 PM, one hour before closing.

The men standing around Home Depot at 5 PM were not winos. They were unemployed. The Home Depot was the labor exchange. They came there before sunrise. Their lucky friends had been hired. The balance waited hoping. Slaves were better off than laborers. Slaves were assured of three hots and a cot aka three meals and a bed.

Jesus possessed hands-on information of the employment operation. He knew the system well precisely because He probably shaped-up cold mornings in Nazareth. My immigrant father had to do it in New York City. He told me you never forgot the humiliation. We permit the shape-up to exist today in the US - especially among Latinos. Many thousands of Latinos shape up at dawn daily across the US.

The parable's hero is not the laborer but the vineyard owner. He is a substitute for God. This parable upsets our picture of God. It tells us that the most advanced scientific instruments are a waste in trying to understand Him.

What is God up to? There is an indication in today's Isaiah 55:8, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts; my ways not your ways." God gets His divine jollies when He witnesses generosity in us. Remember how Christ praised the widow who gave her last coin at the temple. We would tell the widow to keep the coin. She had more need of it than the temple. But not so the Nazarene! Why? He took care of her wants in His own way. Luke you will recall has Him saying, "Give and it shall be given you." Can you recall when you gave away a dollar and did not get two back? I can't.

Want to help the poor? Lobby to get the minimum wage raised to a family living level. 40% of US minimum wage workers are the bread winners in their families. Many are single mothers. Hurry. Every 43 seconds a child is born into poverty in the US. Every 53 minutes a child dies from the effects of poverty.

The silver lining of Katrina was that it made the invisible poor visible. Had Christ been in New Orleans in 2005, He would have been Him in the Superdome among the poor. Since the US government subsidizes our banks, airlines, railroads, stock exchanges, and the wealthy, why should it not subsidize our poor?


Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
Frjoeshomilies.net
25 Ordinary Time

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Justice and Mercy

 

Human Resources would not have been happy with that landowner. Sometimes, it seems that Human Resources does not want to come out on the side of generosity. I remember a time that we wanted to pay an employee extra for work on a particular project. We were told that we could not do this unless we re-adjusted that employee’s pay scale for all his work. 

Back in the times of the Lord, HR did not exist. However, people had a sense of what was just and what was unjust. Day workers were given the daily wage of one denarius. The workday was sunrise to sunset. So, it would seem just that those who worked less than a full day should receive less. But in today’s parable, sometimes called the parable of the Laborers in the Marketplace, other times, perhaps much better, referred to as the Parable of the Good Employer, the landowner has pity on those who could not find work throughout the day. They had families they had to feed. It was not their fault that no one hired them. Therefore, he hires them, some of them even a few hours before sunset, and gives them all the same daily wage. He is not being unjust to those hired in the early morning. He is being charitable, merciful, to those hired at the end of the day.

Justice and mercy are compatible when charity is involved. "Are you envious because I am generous," the owner says to those hired at sunrise who protested that they did not receive more. The exact translation of this is "Do you view my actions with an evil, jealous eye?" This occurs in the Gospel of Matthew where we also read, "If your eye causes you to sin, then pluck it out." Usually we relegate this phrase to a sexual connotation. Properly applied to the point of today's parable, the Lord is saying, "If you begrudge generosity to the less fortunate, than you cannot be a Christian." If we do not rejoice in the benefits given to others, than we cut ourselves off from the benefits we have received. As Christians, we are obligated to care for the poor. We need to establish governmental and private means to aid those who cannot help themselves. Yes, these agencies must be regulated to eliminate those who abuse them. That is justice. But our main concern must be to care for those who have less. That is mercy. Some people reduce those forced into situations where they have to seek help from others. This is not how a Christian should act. Yes, we should be happy when we realize that poor, sick, or people hurting in any way are being helped, but more than that, much more than that, we should be extending the hand of God to lift others up.

“Are you envious because I am generous?” Envy and jealousy are horrible. The jealous person looks for ways to destroy another person’s life. The jealous person usually ends up destroying his own life. Or her own life. The jealous person does not appreciate his own gifts. He can only see the gifts that others have. He hates them for their gifts. And his hatred destroys him. Everybody is different. No two people are the same. We do not have the right to compare or contrast others to ourselves.

This parable should also be applied to our view of our relationship to God. God loves the person who is faithful throughout the day. He loves cradle Catholics who practice their faith throughout their lives. He also loves those who come to him during the day and even in the evening. Many people respond to God’s mercy at the end of their lives. God loves them for taking a huge step away from their former lives and for falling into the arms of His Mercy. Literature presents Don Juan who refuse to reject his immoral lifestyle and would rather suffer hell than entrust himself to God. It is a tremendous step of humility to turn from a sinful life and turn to the Lord. God loves those who take this step, even though they join St. Augustine in mourning, “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient ever new. Late have I loved you.” What matters is that they are with him now. God loves cradle Catholics, and he loves converts. He loves those who practice their faith throughout their lives, and he loves those who return to the faith. We rejoice in those who join the faith or return to the faith. We don't consider ourselves superior to them because we are not superior to them.

At the end of the gospel reading we come upon the phrase, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” We cannot impose our ways on the Lord. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” That is from our first reading. We cannot tell God how to be God. We have to do our best to respond to the call to labor in God's vineyard as we have received it. That call demands that we are open to God's mercy in our lives and that we become vehicles for God's mercy in the lives of others. That is Christianity. To act otherwise is to begrudge God for his generosity, or to be scripturally literal, to look upon God's goodness with an evil, jealous eye. 

The parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard calls upon us to ask God to help us be vehicles of His Mercy.


Homily from Father Phil Bloom
Stmaryvalleybloom.org
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
25 Ordinary Time

Are You Envious?

(September 20, 2020)

Bottom line: When envy enters the heart, we need to focus on God's generosity - when the tide comes in and when the tide goes out. Maybe then we can hear Jesus asking that tough question: "Are you envious because I am generous?"

It's good to be back with you after a couple weeks in Oregon. 

Jesus has a powerful question for you and me: "Are you envious because I am generous?"

Before we can answer that question we need to know what envy is. Here's the definition I found in commentary on this parable: "Envy is not simply jealousy which is the desire to attain or possess what the other person has. Envy is the sin of being upset at another's good fortune."

The sin of being upset at another's good fortune: I admit I often fall into envy. A few months back I had a conversation with Fr. Jim Coleman. I told him about our parish's financial difficulties since Covid-19 struck. He said, "Don't feel bad, Felipe." His old parish, he explained, was also struggling. 

A few weeks later we had another conversation. Looking for some consolation, I asked him how his old parish was doing. He said to me, "Good news. They just received a bequest!"

"That's great," I said. Inside I was thinking, "Why couldn't St. Mary of the Valley get a bequest?" I was upset at another priest's good fortune. I admit, the sin of envy often attacks me. 

What should we do when envy attacks? We find the answer when we face Jesus' question: "Are you envious because I am generous?" You and I have to keep going back to the generosity of God. I may not have received a bequest, but I have received something even better: the generosity of God poured out in his Son Jesus.

St. Paul tells us we are interconnected like organs in body. If one suffers, all suffer. And if one thrives, all ultimately thrive. That other priest's bequest is like the water of an incoming tide. Eventually it will lift up all boats.

I grew up on Camano Island. An incoming tide brought blessings, but so did an outgoing tide. Sometimes those blessings were the best - clams, mussels and other shellfish. So it is with God's generosity. When the tide goes out, that can be the time of greatest blessings.

I am grateful for God's generosity - and the generosity that you express in Stewardship of time, talents and financial resources. 

Next week we'll have a change of pace. We have a powerful reading from Paul's letter to the Philippians. He has a lot to say to our current situation.

That's for next Sunday. Today take this home: When envy enters the heart, we need to focus on God's generosity - when the tide comes in and when the tide goes out. Maybe then we can hear Jesus asking that tough question: "Are you envious because I am generous?" Amen


Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
25 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Alexmcallister.co.uk
25 Ordinary Time

The parable we have just heard, about the men labouring in the vineyard, is probably one of the most familiar of all the parables. Our sympathies spontaneously go out to the fellow who laboured all day and yet who receives the same salary as the one who laboured only for one hour. But even so we still realise that this parable is more about the generosity of God than about our perception of fairness.

In one of my previous parishes a parishioner owned a vineyard and at harvest time I would sometimes go to help them, if only for the generous lunch afterwards. The owner once hosted a visit from a group of parishioners and explained the whole process of vine growing and wine making.

It was interesting to hear him talk about pruning. I, of course, knew that vines had to be pruned but I did not realise that there were several prunings and neither did I realise how precise the pruning has to be. It soon became obvious that running a vineyard was a fulltime occupation. He also told us that it depends a great deal on how the vine is grown as to how difficult the pruning is. If the vines are grown low to the ground then the pruning requires a lot of bending down and is therefore much harder work.

I imagine it was pruning that those chaps in the parable were hired to carry out. But it can’t have been very easy work especially in the heat of the day. The man who was hired at daybreak would have had just cause to be envious of the chap hired just for an hour in the comparative cool of the evening.

But let us turn our focus from the seeming injustice described in the parable to its actual setting in the vineyard. Each one of us is called to serve in the vineyard of the Lord which is the world around us. Each one of us has work to do for the Lord. We are Christians after all, the followers of Christ on earth, and we carry on his ministry in the world of today. We do what Christ did: we preach the Good News of the Kingdom; we heal the sick; we forgive the sinner; we spend time alone with God in prayer, we serve in his vineyard. We are his hands and his feet and everything we do is done in his name.

The world is our vineyard and we care for the vines its people: metaphorically we prune them and we protect them from frost and from predation. Some have a special role as priests, others as catechists or teachers, but all of us are workers in the vineyard of the Lord. All of us are baptised and confirmed into ministry in imitation of our Lord and Saviour. And we find that it is a fulltime occupation.

Our Christian life, therefore, is not merely restricted to going to Sunday mass and saying morning and night prayers. Our Christian life is like a seamless robe because our every thought and word and deed we intend to be an expression of our commitment to Christ. We are his apostles today and our apostolate, the term we give to the work of an apostle, is carried out in our homes, in our workplaces and in our leisure activities. Our vineyard is the world around us.

Not a few of us have been conscious of these things for a great number of years, perhaps even for our entire adult lives. We feel that we have done our duty and slaved tirelessly over decades for the sake of the Kingdom. It is only natural that we might become a little envious of those who hear the call of the Lord only late in life. Like the man in the parable we might harbour feelings that we have been unfairly treated when we see the latecomers treated exactly as ourselves.

But when such feelings rise to the surface, we ought to instantly realise that they are entirely unworthy of the true Christian. These are thoughts put into our minds by the evil one. Because what we are actually meaning when we think such thoughts is that it would have been really quite good if we could have lived a life of sin or at least lived a life apart from God and only chosen to embrace him at the eleventh hour!

But when we expose this way of thinking to the daylight, we see how flawed it is and we realise that we are truly blessed to have been chosen by God at all, let alone to have been called so early in our lives. We are indeed blessed and amply rewarded by God. He repays us for our labours with the joys of eternal life; in fact, there is nothing greater he could give us. And indeed, he either gives us eternal life or nothing at all.

So, the reaction of the faithful and wise Christian is not to bemoan that so many come late but to rejoice that so many are saved at all. If we do need some human consolation or extra pats on the back, as it were, then we should remind ourselves what it is we are about, remind ourselves of the true nature of our work for the Lord. It is, of course, building up his Kingdom here on earth and winning souls for heaven.

With this understanding every additional labourer coming into the Vineyard of the Lord is another soul won for Christ. Every additional labourer is the result of the cumulative efforts of the entire Church and a new outpouring of the grace and mercy of God. What greater cause of rejoicing could there be that, no matter how late the hour, more and more are being recruited into the Vineyard of the Lord and saved for eternal life.

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