23 Sep


(A biblical reflection on the 25th ORDINARY SUNDAY [Year A], 24 September 2017) 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 20:1-16 

First Reading: Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalms: Psalm 145:2-3,8-9,17-18; Second Reading: Philippians 1:20-24,27 

The Scripture Text

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place; and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, saying, ‘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.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go; 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? So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:1-16 RSV)

Because people in biblical times built walls around their city for protection from hostile invaders, the only way anyone could get in or out was through the city gate. The area just inside the gate was a busy place because that was where the elders met to settle the disputes of the city’s residents, traders sold their goods, and men gathered looking for work.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable about a vineyard owner who went to the city gate at daybreak, midmorning, noon, mid afternoon, and late afternoon to hire men to help with the harvest. The younger and stronger workers undoubtedly got jobs first. Those who were still around later in the day were the men who could not work as fast or do as much because of old age or poor health. These men were unemployed simply because no one hired them.

When it was time for the vineyard owner to pay the workers, he gave each of them a full day’s wage; those hired first felt cheated because they worked longer and harder than those hired later in the day. Naturally, the laborers who worked all day thought the vineyard owner should have paid them more than the ones who did less work. We can sympathize with these men, but we should also consider the predicament of the others.

A man needed at least a full day’s wage to feed himself and his family for one day. If a man did not find a job, his wife and children would have to go without food and his neighbors would ridicule him because he wasn’t able to provide for his household. Therefore, the owners of the vineyard showed compassion for those he hired last by paying them more than they deserved.

The moral of the parable is clear. The owner of the vineyard is God and we are the workers. Because our God is compassionate, we can expect Him to give us our daily bread. He will provide for all people, even for those who are lowly and not wanted. All we need to do is put our trust in Him.

(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 94-95.)

Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, remind us constantly that our calls and rewards are totally the grace and generosity of our heavenly Father, and we cannot apply human standards and limits to His generosity. We do not ask to be treated fairly, but for our hearts that treat others as He has treated us. Amen.

Jakarta, 23 September 2017 

A Christian Pilgrim 


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