St. John Fisher Roman Catholic Church

30 Jones Hollow Road, Marlborough, CT 06447

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time A20

Once again we have the themes of forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and generosity. They run through the reading from Isaiah, the responsorial psalm, the gospel parable.

Isaiah assures us that God can be found and that God is near. All we have to do is forsake our scoundrel ways, get rid of wicked thoughts, and turn to the Lord for mercy who is generous in forgiving. The responsorial psalm declares the Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness, and good to all and compassionate toward all his works. That sounds pretty good and doable.

But, there is a something else. In Isaiah the Lord says that “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways.”[1] In fact we cannot comprehend God’s ways and thoughts as the responsorial psalm asserts that God’s greatness is unsearchable.

Both the 1st reading and the Gospel introduce the parable of Jesus, the most difficult to understand from the viewpoint of labor relations, unions, and what we consider fairness. How many of us agree with the grumbling day long workers, thinking that they should have received more than the daily wage they agreed to? They worked longer and harder than the rest, so they deserved more. It’s not fair! How many of us were surprised that the last hour workers also received the whole daily wage? If I were one of the first workers, I would never again agree to work for that vineyard owner – well, at least before 3 pm!

Jesus never explains why the owner didn’t hire more workers in the first place. All we do know the owner brought in others at different times and promised to pay them a just wage which ended up being the daily wage that enabled them to eat and to provide food for their families. A just wage should be a living wage. Currently in our country, Federal law sets the minimum wage at $7.25/hr. and $2.13/hr. for those who also work for tips. Try supporting a family on that!

 

It is helpful to look at the context of this episode. In Matthew Gospel it comes after the story of the rich man who turned down Jesus’ invitation to sell everything and come follow him and Peter’s claim that he and the other disciples have given up everything to follow him and asked what will be their reward. [2] Ultimately this parable is about the relationship between the owner and the workers, or better yet, between the Master and the disciples. It’s about mission, not wages, working in the world, the vineyard, to bring about the Kingdom of God. It starts at the moment God calls us to work whenever that may be. The reward is the same: heaven!

God is generous, as eager to embrace and reward the latecomer as the charter member. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways.”[3] Thank God!        

 

[1] Isaiah 55:8.

[2] Mt. 19:16-30.

[3] Idem.

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