Reflection for 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
(Is 55:6-9, Phil 1:20-24.27, Mt 20:1-16)
1.0. The Unsatisfied Logic
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, says the Lord.” This message from Prophet Isaiah was exemplified in the parable of today. A householder went out early in the morning and invited labourers to his vineyard. He agreed with them for one denarius a day. Later in the day he invited other labourers, even at one hour to the close of work. Surprisingly, he started payment from the last comers, and paid them the same amount with the first comers. Anyone reading the story with common sense would join the first labourers to grumble: “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.” What sort of reasoning is this?
Ordinarily, we grumble at the face of injustice. But the first labourers were paid their just wages. Though the master’s logic surprises us, we could not accuse him of injustice. Then the murmuring came from a mindset that is inclined to competition and jealousy. Such common-sense-reasoning values what it has because others do not have it. But Jesus presents to us a different kind of logic, rooted in generosity and self-donation.
2.0. Discerning the Common Sense
In the parable, the householder had agreement for one denarius with the first labourers only. The later labourers were invited based on his mercy and generosity. “You go into my vineyard too, whatever is right I will give you.” While the first worked based on the agreement, covenant or law of one denarius a day, the later labourers relied on the man’s mercy and charity. His generosity became for them a ‘new' covenant or agreement, which is not based on any determinate financial gain. Their response implies they abandoned themselves to his mercy! In other words, they took the greater risk or, rather they made the greater commitment to the householder. Hence, the later labourers were given equally what is obtainable in agreement or law. Yes, the first labourers worked all day under the heat, but for their own self determination and assured reward.
“Faithful love and loyalty joined together, saving justice and peace embraced” (Ps 85:10). In God, Justice and charity go together. Charity is built upon justice but goes beyond it. “My friend...I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” Justice cannot be sustained without charity!
3.0. The Divine Logic
Therefore, the Divine logic is that of generosity and faithfulness. “Our God is merciful and just” (Ps 116:5). This logic often challenges our common sense. But we participate in it by committing ourselves to a life of charity—a life lived for others. This is part of the message of the second reading. “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account...” (Phil 1:23-24). Like Paul who goes out to spread the Gospel, we see the merciful and charitable householder going to search for idle labourers and bring them to his vineyard. The thoughts and ways of God are higher than ours. But we are invited to participate in this Divine logic.
Charity upgrades us. Those labourers who responded to the merciful invitation shared in the logic of the householder, and they received mercy’s reward. “Blessed are the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them” (Mt 5:7). Living for others in charity is a way we share in the Divine Logic and belong to Him in life or in death. “Brethren: Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or by death.” It is equally a way we progress and receive with satisfaction and joy our daily ‘denarius.’
Fr Jude Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
Mother of Perpetual Help Shrine,
UgwogoNike, Enugu, Nigeria.