24 September 201725 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. The 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
25 Ordinary Time
25th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Graced Moments

We just heard the parable of the laborers called to work at various times during the day. Come on now. Let's be honest. It seems to us that the laborers who worked all day had a reasonable argument. Why should the guys who only worked for just an hour or two get paid the same amount as those who worked for eight or ten hours? It just doesn't seem right, does it? Come on, now. Let's be honest. It seems neither fair nor just, does it? Mary spent her entire youth in prayer and union with God. She had prepared for that meeting with the angel Gabriel, even though she had not expected it, She had prepared herself to allow God's grace to transform her into the Mother of God. She needed the hand of God to get her through the difficult days of Jesus' earthly ministry when many were calling on her to get her son to tone down his message. She was even prepared for the worst moment of her life as she stood at the foot of the cross. Then, while she was there, a convicted felon to whom we give the name Dismis made a last moment act of faith and was promised paradise. Compared to Mary, Dismis did little; yet he was being rewarded for his one act of faith. This seems neither fair nor just. It isn't, at least not by our standards. The Gospel for today, the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, tells us that God is far more gracious then men. It is encouraging us to realize that we do not have the right to make either judgments or comparisons in the realm of spiritual affairs.

The Gospel of Matthew was written primarily to an audience of Christians who were Jewish. For ages these were the Chosen People. Their ancestors had fought and suffered to preserve faith in Yahweh. Now, as Christians, they were thrown out of the synagogue, they were rejected by their own people. They had suffered much for the Lord. They had suffered for ages, and were suffering still. But when this gospel was written, there were many others who were choosing Christ who did not have a ancestral history of fighting for their faith. Their ancestors were Gentiles, pagans. Now, at the end of the day, without what appeared to be any significant service to Yahweh, the Gentiles were being called into the salvation of the Lord. Unfair, Unjust? "No," says the Lord. We only see it as unfair or unjust because our ways are not his ways. What the Lord sees in the late conversion of someone who had been far from Him is the response to a Graced moment.

A Graced Moment is an occurrence in our lives that causes us to stop and think about the role we are called to play in the Kingdom of God. A Graced Moment can come at the birth of a child, or at the death of a Loved One. For some, their marriage is a Graced Moment as they decide that they want infinitely more than a legal agreement or even a blessing on their marriage. They want Jesus Christ as the Center of their love. For others, their children’s First Communion is a Graced Moment as they guide their little ones to receive the Lord and decide that they now more than ever need to make the Eucharist a priority in their lives also. For many Teens confirmation is a Graced Moment as they realize that they need to take their faith seriously and commit to Jesus Christ. A Graced Moment can come when a major decision is to be made, or when a person feels the need to change his or her lifestyle. The Lord is concerned that we respond to His call to grace.

There is mercy, compassion and forgiveness for the past. What matters to the Lord is the present and future. The owner goes back to the marketplace to hire more workers because there is work to be done in his vineyard, even if the sun is just a few hours from setting. The sad problem is that many people give up on ourselves. But the Lord never gives up on us. Sometimes, we have the view that "it is just too late". Something we have done in our past is so terrible that God could never return us to a full share of His love. If this type of thought has come to the mind of anyone who reads this, let me tell you with the authority of the Gospel: You are wrong. You are judging by human standards, not by the standards of the Love and Mercy and Compassion of the Lord. God never gives up. He never gives up on us. We do not have the right to give up on ourselves.

"Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;" the Prophet Isaiah tells us in the first reading. "Take advantage of the graced moments the Lord provides." We do not have the right to think that we know better than the Lord how He should lavish His goodness, whether that be on others or on us. As Isaiah concludes: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." The message the Church prepares for us today is simple: Trust in God. His love is greater than our most profound hope.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
25 Ordinary Time
Fruitful Labor
(September 24, 2017)

Message: What matters is that you and I are at work in God's Church.
St. Paul has words many people can identify with: He longs to be with Christ. That would mean freedom from the cares, trials and pains of this life. He desires to be with Christ.

Still, he says, if I go on living that will mean fruitful labor. This fruitful labor includes physical tasks - in Paul's case sewing together tents. It includes intellectual labor - studying God's Word. It includes organizing, talking to people and encouraging them. Above all, fruitful labor means prayer and suffering: physical ailments, emotional distress, loneliness and opposition born for Christ. All of this constitutes fruitful labor for God and his Church. We can experience something similar when we join our lives to Jesus. We see it in the work done in our parish. Let me begin with something seeming mundane - the consolidation of our parish offices.

Now, when you enter the parish center you first encounter our new receptionist - Abby Jacobo Luna. In the same room is Anita Maceda, pastoral assistant for administration. Across the hall you find Faith Formation for children, youth and adults: Meri Price, Tania Gutierrez and Sister Barbara. The old library became my office and my old office is now the new conference room and area for Children's Liturgy of the Word. This consolidation of offices was accomplished under the direction of our facility supervisors, Cathy Lenac. It happened only because of your Stewardship of time, abilities and financial resources. At the end of the Mass we will have a report on other projects.

In giving this list I want to emphasize that fruitful labor is not about resting on our laurels but rather keeping at it. Jesus makes this clear by telling about vineyard workers who start at different hours: early in the morning, midday, even late in the afternoon. They all get the same wage.

For my money Blessed John Henry Newman explains it best: "The Master of the Vineyard did but one thing. He told his servant to 'call the labourers and give them their hire.'" Newman explains that God does not ask what they had done or what they knew. "This was the sole question, whether they had worked in the vineyard. First they must be in the vineyard, then they must work in it; these were the two things...The single question will be, are we Catholics and are we good Catholics?" So keep at it. If you are young, don't think, "I can get on board later, toward the end of my life." This afternoon might be the end - for you, for me, for any person here or for all of us.

And if you are old, don't think, "I've done plenty; now I can retire." For sure God does have a retirement plan - it's out of this world! While we're here the Lord has fruitful labor. It many mean turning off the TV (or computer) and setting up a discipline of prayer: the rosary, chaplet, daily Mass. It's not too late to Take the Plunge using daily Mass readings. I explain more in the bulletin.

Like St. Paul fruitful labor may mean accepting physical ailments, loneliness and emotional distress. Do not envy those who have blessings you do not. Leave all that in God's hand. "My thoughts are not your thoughts," as we heard God say in the first reading. What matters is that you and I are at work in God's Church. I conclude then with his invitation: "Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near." Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
25 Ordinary Time
Twenty-fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Modern
Matthew 20: 1 – 16a

Is this Gospel about fairness or generosity? I have heard some people observe, just as those in the parable who worked all day, the landowner in this parable is not being fair to most of the workers. After all, does Jesus say in Luke 10; "the Laborer is worth his wage"? It could seem unfair if we look at it through the lens of this world that at times sees fairness as being more important than generosity. Even though the landowner paid those who worked all day the just and agreed upon wage, they grumbled when he paid those who worked only an hour the same amount. The line in the landowner's response to their grumbling that strikes at the root of the problem is this, "are you envious because I am generous?" There are some things in the parable that indicate the landowner was using this generosity to teach a lesson. He sent four groups of workers to his fields at different times. The landowner had a heart that didn't want to see someone willing to work, out of work.

At five when he saw some people not working he asked them; "Why do you stand her idle all day?" Their response was simple and to the point, "because no one has hired us." He seemed moved by their situation and sent them to work, if only for an hour. When it was time to pay the workers the landowner did something unusual. Rather than start with the first group and end with the last group, he started with the last group. This meant that all the others who had been working throughout the day saw this group who only worked an hour getting a full day's wage. It also meant that the others thought that they would get more, but they didn't. All received the same daily wage. When this is applied to the ways of our world it could seem that the landowner was unfair or unjust.

After all many people meticulously keep track of their work hours, fill out time sheets and maintain it for IRS purposes. The claim of being generous would be lost in the midst of our bureaucratic ways let alone in the ill feelings of those who worked all day, or most of the day. However, when applied to God's relationship to us, it takes on a whole different meaning. The person who lives an almost saintly life and the person who lives a life of sinfulness with no regard for God, who repents late in life or on the death bed, both receive the same reward – Heaven. The landowner mirrors the generosity of God with how he dealt with the workers with a true generosity out of love. It is certainly a challenge for us to look at others regardless of the amount of time, the length of living their faith and have the same love and concern for them. This might mean putting aside any feelings of jealousy toward those who seem to be making it into heaven with a "fire escape' prayer, while we have worked and sacrificed all our lives to be faithful members of the church. Conversions late in life, and death bed conversions happen in our day, and they are something to behold with joy. The message for us is to welcome with joy the repentant sinner, regardless of how long it takes them to repent. It is a lesson for us not to worry about the length of time one has faithfully served, but rather to rejoice in all who have served, regardless of how long.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Classic Matthew 20: 1-16

Gospel Summary
At dawn and throughout the day, the owner of a vineyard hires workers. They reach an agreement about wages; and the workers go out into the vineyard to do the work. About five o'clock, merely one hour before the end of the workday, the owner hires the last workers. To the surprise of all, he gives the last ones hired a full-day's wage. Those hired first think they will receive more, and grumble when they are paid the agreed-upon wage. The owner of the vineyard responds: "Are you envious because I am generous?” ,br>Life Implications

The unredeemed situation represented by the resentment of the workers about the vineyard owner's generosity is essentially similar to our own experience. It is the human tendency to impose our way of thinking upon God. Warning against this form of idolatry, making a god in our image and likeness, is apparent through the entire biblical narrative. Think, for example, of Job's friends who could not imagine that God might not be defined by their quite orthodox theology. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord” (Is 55:8). Jesus in his parable is certainly not abrogating the valid and necessary principles of justice. Rather he is giving us an opportunity to grasp that God's nature is to be extravagantly generous, beyond the rational rules of exchange. How do you find parables to suggest the possibility of love to someone who has never experienced a relationship beyond that of a business contract? I recall struggling to find helpful analogies (parables) when asked by a friend, blind from birth, to explain the difference in feeling between seeing red and blue. Jesus himself is the best parable of the extravagantly generous God.

He makes far too much wine at the Cana wedding; far too much bread for the hungry crowd; he tells a story about forgiving a debt far too large ever to be paid; and he tells us to forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven. And as the ultimate revelation of extravagant affection, he willingly gives up his life for us on a cross. Paul refers to "Christ crucified” as foolishness to human wisdom (1 Cor 1:22-25). The good news of the gospel is that we share the extravagantly generous Spirit of Jesus. Sometimes we too can act with extravagant generosity, beyond the rational rules of justice. God's kingdom is meant to be a new order of grace. Isn't there always something unexpected and wonderful about a gift of love, even a kind word? A gift is never earned in the way that a wage is earned, and expected. Apparently, Jesus does not want a church of J. Aldred Prufrocks, people carefully measuring out their lives with coffee spoons (T.S. Eliot's image). Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
25 Ordinary Time
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

There is a lesson in Economic Geography in our Gospel reading today. I say this because the parable gives us an insight into the social and economic structure of Palestine at the time of Jesus. Land was in the hands of a few rich merchants and the mass of the populace were dependent on them for employment. But of course these rich landowners organised things to suit themselves. They employed labourers on a daily basis so that they were not burdened with paying workers throughout the year when they might only need them at the time of the harvest. This meant that it was vital for a labourer to get work during the busy harvest time otherwise he would have nothing to provide for his family during the slacker parts of the year.

This means that the poor were at the mercy of the rich; they had few rights and whatever employment they could get was entirely in the hands of these wealthy landowners. As it tells us in the parable, they had to swallow their pride and go to the market place early in the morning and offer themselves for hire. This remains the practice in many places in our world; even today in London I have seen immigrant workers gathering at certain well known places where employers come to hire them on a casual basis.

We ought to be glad that in most advanced societies basic protection for workers is today enshrined in law. But even so there can be severe injustices and low grade workers are surprisingly often taken advantage of and swindled out of their just wages. It is important in any society that a fair balance is struck between the rights of workers and the flexibility needed by employers to make a reasonable profit and so provide jobs in the first place. This is one of the basic principles of that body of doctrine that we call Catholic Social Teaching. But important though that is, the subject of the parable is not equity in the workplace. Like all the parables of Jesus it is about the Kingdom of God. And like all the other parables it works on a number of different levels. There are two main audiences; the disciples to whom it was addressed and the members of the Christian community to which St Matthew belonged and for whom he was writing his Gospel.

The Jews rightly considered themselves to be God's Chosen People and in the parable they are obviously represented by the men who came at the first hour. The workers who are hired at the third and sixth and ninth hours represent the other nations who God reveals himself at later points in history. The indignation mentioned in the parable arises because those hired first have become envious of those others who come after and who are rewarded by God in exactly the same way.

Instead of realising that labouring in the vineyard of the Lord is a joy and a privilege the Chosen People have come round to thinking that it is some kind of onerous duty and that carrying out these tasks means that they have earned a greater recompense than those who come along later. This is a distorted way of thinking. The one denarius, which simply means a day's wages, is the reward that God promised them. They get what is their due. But like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden they are persuaded that they have somehow been treated unfairly when this is far from the case. The People of Israel were chosen by God not to be the only heirs to the Kingdom. Although they were the privileged group of people to whom he chose first to reveal himself and with whom he made a solemn covenant; God never promised that salvation would be confined only to them. Their claim for special treatment is further weakened by the fact of their frequent faithlessness as is well recorded in the pages of the Old Testament and, of course, ultimately by their rejection of God's only Son, Jesus.

What God does grant the People of Israel is the inestimable privilege that it is from among them that the Saviour of the World would come. And this promise is admirably fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, the one true Saviour of the World. The other audience to which this parable is aimed at are Matthew's readers; the ones for whom he wrote his Gospel. And this includes not just the community to which he belonged but to all his readers down through the ages, including you and me today.

We can identify with the latecomers in the parable. Even if we have been brought up as Christians from our earliest days we are still Gentiles and not members of the Chosen People of God; yet we are very aware that God has extended his extraordinary generosity to us and opened up for us the way of salvation. This should make us constantly aware of the great generosity of God, who although he chose to reveal himself firstly to the People of Israel has extended his invitation to the whole of humanity.

We ought not to fall into the same trap as the Pharisees thinking that we somehow deserve the generous love of God. Neither should we think that living the Christian life is in any way onerous. We ought not to think that our new status as children of God lifts us higher in God's eyes than those who have not yet heard his word. What we are meant to understand from this wonderful parable is the tremendous generosity of God our Saviour. What is being revealed to us is one of the great promises of God that he will reward with eternal life all those who follow him, all those who respond to his call.

It is not for us to determine who qualifies to enter the Kingdom. God issues the invitations and he therefore is the gatekeeper; he alone has the authority and the knowledge to make such a judgement.

Our task is not to be constantly looking over our shoulder but rather to rejoice in the task that we have been given to proclaim his love to the world and to live a life worthy of his name. What he wants is for us to fulfil the task allotted to us and to do so with a joyful heart. Not only should we be rejoicing in our own task but we should be full of gladness that God continues to call ever more people into his vineyard and that he will carry on doing this right up to the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour.

As St Paul says so eloquently in his letter to the Philippians our aim is that Christ will be glorified in us, both by our mode of life and in our mode of death.

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