25th Sunday Of Ordinary Time – Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“God Does Not Think The Way People Do”.
The first reading of today puts us on our guard about the attempt to pull down and bring God to our level, pretending that his thoughts are our thoughts. His thoughts are as far from ours as heaven is from the earth.
In the second reading we are given the example of Paul. He did not work for a reward, though he knew that he had worked more than everybody else (1 Cor. 15:10). His reward was the ability to love what God has given him, his ‘Life in Christ’.
It is more than likely that the message of the Gospel of today may confuse us. This would be a good sign because it would mean that we have understood how our thoughts are different from those of God.
Guide to ‘Live’ the Sunday Liturgy:
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
If at all possible, share this Bible Reflection time with a family member, a friend or someone you wish to bring to Christ. Jesus said in Mt. 18:20 – “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests, bishops and Catholic theologians who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a ‘Prayer’ are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. With faith and perseverance, we will start to put into practice the Lord’s teachings; begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love, God’s will, and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator. Meditations and Prayer on the Reflections should be done daily – first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.
It may be necessary to pray and repeat the study of the Bible Readings and Commentaries more than once, or even on a daily basis, if you feel that you have not yet grasped the Lord’s special message for you.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
The prophet is addressing the words of this reading to a group of dispirited Jewish exiles in Babylon. They are well aware of why they have been exiled: they were unfaithful to God and did not listen to the words of the prophets. They are now convinced that God will never forgive the sins they have committed. They think that Israel’s dream has come to an end. They are close to despair. They have the wrong impression of God, they think that God is just like them, mean and mad and incapable of forgiving and forgetting. Their big mistake is imagining a God like themselves. God is not subject to human failings. His way of thinking and acting will always surprise us.
Why is it that so many people today ignore or reject God? Have they become more wicked? No, the real reason is that many find it difficult to continue believing in the true God who they do not know or understand. Their ‘false god’ they believed in reasons humanly, bargains with salvation, offers it (but everyone has to work for it), weighs merit and sin, keeps record of everything and pays according to what one has earned, just as humans do. Like the ancient Israelites they feel that all is lost. They need to know the ‘God our Creator’ who loves each one of us who wants us to be with him. We need to develop a family relationship with our Father and truly become his sons and daughters. In the reading of today the prophet tells the exiles in Babylon, and us too (we also think the way they do): “Let the evil man abandon his way, his evil thoughts. The conversion he wants is not simply turning away from sins and moral corruption; he is asking for much more: he wants a radical change in our way of looking at God. As a matter of fact, the Lord himself immediately after explains why he behaves in such a surprising way with those who have gone wrong: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways. Yes, the heavens are as high above the earth as my ways are above your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts. Job had discovered this (Job 38-41); and Jesus makes this point again in the parable in today’s Gospel. Our basic human needs lead us to cry out to God in time of trouble.
The verses from the first reading prepare us to listen to the Gospel of today. We shall discover God behaving very strangely. Is it ‘He’ who is behaving surprisingly, or is it our way of looking, thinking and judging that is mean and needs improvements and change? We also turn our thoughts to God on the Sabbath, before meals and when we retire at night. Are these the best times? How and when should we seek God? Seeking God means changing our way of life and conforming to God’s way. God’s word is powerful enough to change us. It is best to keep our eyes open at all times in order to receive his messenger who can come in a guise and manner we least expect.
Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18.
The Psalm is again a meditation on the greatness of God and on his covenant virtues. The response emphasizes his closeness to all who call on him. He is a God to be sought and may be found.
Philippians 1:20-24, 27.
Paul is in prison, perhaps in Rome, more likely at Ephesus. The feature point of this passage is that it lets us into the mind of Paul on the subject of his own death. When Paul was converted, he probably thought that Christ would return before he died (1Thes. 1:10). The possibility of his own execution has concentrated his thought. Paul wants to die because this will allow him an even greater intimacy with Christ than he already had (Gal. 2.20). His special calling was to preach the Gospel. So for the sake of his converts and his mission, he was ready to live on. We see a reflection of that love in Paul’s dilemma; he loved so much that he could not decide whether it was better to live or to die. The famous sentence: “Life to me is Christ, but death would bring me something more” (21) sums up the feelings of Paul, and this is why these words were also written on his tomb in Rome. If only we could love Christ as much as Paul does! Where do our priorities lie?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus relates a parable about workers who are given employment at different times of the same day and yet are paid the same wage at the days end. Though some Christians have come to faith in Jesus before others, they do not have more of a claim on God’s love than those who came later in faith. Many come later on in their lives to know God and to serve him. They will share in God’s love in just the same way as those who came to him long before.
In the parable Jesus has tried to show that God’s ways are not our ways. In the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ he already declared that the way to happiness is not what people often assume, but consists in total dependence on God (Mt. 5-7). He surprises everybody when he associates with low-class people and eats with prostitutes, tax collectors and other sinners. He does not pick his followers from the priests and religious people, but chooses rather ordinary folk. His decisions and choices upset the existing social order and its values and judgments. There is growing opposition for him from the religious leaders. Those who should have been the first to welcome him and his message rejected it completely.
Jesus wants to reinforce the truth that in the ‘Kingdom of God’ there is no privileged class. God guarantees us only one thing, just as a worker needs a day’s wage to survive, everybody gets the grace necessary for salvation. No service in the Christian Community gives one more rights than another. We are all workers in the Lord’s vineyard and each person contributes in his/her own way to the building up of Christ’s Body (1 Cor. 12) and receives the grace needed for doing so.
We may wish to claim a better place in God’s Kingdom for ourselves and think that we deserve it more than others do. We can call ourselves ‘saved’ and think that God loves us more than those whom we think are not. We may think we have received the gifts from the Holy Spirit and look down on other Christians as second class. This parable warns us to put away all such claims. God calls each person at the hour and in the way he wants. He will give to everyone what he needs for salvation.
Likewise, in the “Vineyard of the Lord” one has to volunteer one’s work; nobody must claim a higher wage for longer hours. No one must do good in order to have a right to a reward in heaven. In the parable the grumbling workers who didn’t want the other labourers treated with generosity miss the point entirely. Their attitude is, “God owes me.”
Jesus’ teaching is that we must realize instead “God loves me.” In the ecstasy of that love we need do nothing but rejoice that others are given a share in that love, even if they have done nothing to ‘deserve’ it. Christians love, because they have discovered how good it is to love gratuitously and generously. Like the Father; they do good because they like to do good, for the sake of good. When we start comparing ourselves to others, or the work we do to what others do, we no longer have the mind of God. Envy is one of the seven deadly sins, those negative dispositions that are at the root of all sinful behaviour. Envy is a poisonous parasite growing on a good plant, a negative response to somebody’s success or good fortune. The cure for envy is to appreciate goodness wherever it appears and to bless the God of all giving. We should be glad that God gives out of generosity, not in the measure we deserve. Where would we be then? ‘From envy are born hatred, detraction, calumny, joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbour, and displeasure caused by his prosperity.’ (Catechism #2539).
All of us have become cogs in the wheel of our capitalistic system, whose basic motivation is to have more, not to be more. It’s difficult to break out of it and see things in another way. Jesus’ way is still capable of turning things upside down, because it undermines worldly and cultural attitudes that most people believe to be correct. What Jesus is saying to us is: if you want to make space for God in your life, you must change some of your beliefs and attitudes to God’s way. The parable also has implications for how we treat those who have not been able to find work at the eleventh hour: the poor, the unemployed, those on welfare and the homeless. How can we begin to live the lessons found in the parable in our daily lives and in society as a whole?
Always remember that the question we’re often tempted to ask – What’s in it for me?
– Leaves no room for God!
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year A, we reflect on …
Sun … It is a big mistake to imagine that God is like us. We find it difficult to forgive others and therefore we assume that God will never forgive some of the serious sins we have committed. Another one of our failings is that we tend to think in terms of ourselves being the centre of everything that exits. God in his love and finite wisdom is not subject to such human failings.
Mon … Many people today find it difficult to fully accept God as the very ‘Centre’ of our being and as the most important ‘Presence’ in our lives. Perhaps it is because we continue to believe in a false god who reasons like us, keeps records of our sins and offers salvation to only those who have earned and deserved it? Do we still worship a ‘god of earned merit’ or a ‘God of Love and Forgiveness’ who continuously stretches out his hand of mercy and compassion? All we need to do is to truly repent and hold onto his guiding hand.
Tues … In our life-long conversion process we need not only to turn away from sin and moral corruption but also to radically change our way of looking at God. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. Seeking God means changing our way of life and conforming to God’s way. We need to get to know the true God. We must become committed to God’s word; it is powerful enough to change us into loving members of the Father’s family.
Wed. … Paul, in deliberating about his future thinks that if it were left up to him alone, he would prefer an early death so as to be fully with Christ. He realizes that this may not be what God wants of him. God’s way is all important for Paul therefore he is entirely reconciled to the thought of staying on earth in order to give further help to his converts.
Thurs … The reign or ‘Kingdom of God’ on earth calls for a change of thinking. Human thoughts are small minded and self-centred in comparison to God’s noble and generous love. Why are we envious because God is generous to others? At the time of writing the parable of the vineyard some Jewish Christians resented the Gentile converts who were like the latecomers in the parable.
Frid … Envy is one of the seven deadly sins, those negative dispositions that are at the root of all sinful behaviour. The cure for envy is to appreciate goodness wherever it appears and to bless the God of all giving. We should be glad that God gives out generously and not in the measure that we deserve. Where would we be then?
Sat … We cannot enjoy what we have as long as we regret what we do not have! Saint Francis opted for poverty and owned the beauty of the universe. In having nothing he possessed joy in everything. He had chosen riches for all eternity, riches of the heart!
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, let us always rejoice that You give out gratuitous love and non-apportioned generosity and not in the measure of what we deserve. Help us to truly live the lessons found in the parable in our daily lives and in our communities. We thank you for Your great love and mercy for us, ‘Your undeserving servants’.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.