HOMILY FOR 25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR A
HOMILY Theme: WORK AND REWARD
By: Fr. Gerald Musa
Homily for Sunday.
Approach him who gives generously without reproach (James 1:5)
Jesus educates his disciples about the nature of the kingdom of God in his parable of a Landowner and his workers. The landowner went out to hire the first set of workers at dawn, the second set at 9am, he hired the third group of workers at noon, then he went out to hire the fourth set at 3pm and he still went out just before the closing hour at 5pm to hire the last batch of workers. At the end of the day, he gave to each worker the normal wage for a day’s work. When it came to time for payment, he paid them on reverse order, beginning with the last. At last, when the first set of workers came forward they received the same as the latecomers and so they naturally complained against the landowner saying: ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat’ (Matthew 20:11-12).
The Landowner could have given those he hired late less, but he chose to give them the same amount as those who came earlier. This was because he knew that all of them have similar needs for daily food and other necessities of life. The desire of the landowner was to save all unemployed people from the boredom of idleness and provide for them a dignified way of fending for themselves. The Landowner gave those who complained the right reply when he said:
‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
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In life, we often want to have more than others and in this unhealthy struggle we fall into the trap of jealousy and envy. In envy we tend to forget our blessings and envy the blessings of other people. A Greek proverb says: “As rust corrupts iron, so envy corrupts man.” Envy is the act of casting an evil eye on the blessings of others and forgetting the heaps of blessings that God has given us. We look, out of the corner of our eye what God is doing for others and fail to notice the good works he is doing in us. Envy is a symptom of lack of appreciation for what we have and who we are.
This Landowner paid his workers, not just for the number of hours they spent, but he paid them for their willingness to work and for completing the task given to them. It is this same logic that Jesus used to praise the widow’s mite. It was not about the amount she gave, but for the sacrifice she made. It is this same wisdom that motivated Jesus to pardon the thief on the cross. It was not because of his last minute confession, but for his sincere act of contrition. The Parable of the prodigal son is another good example of how God supplies grace to the unworthy who are willing and ready to return to him. No wonder God declares, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…” (Isaiah 55:8).
Here is an inspirational note from an anonymous spiritual writer:
Who does God’s work will get God’s pay.
However long may seem the day,
However weary be the way;
Though powers and princes thunder “Nay,”
Who does God’s work will get God’s pay,
He does not pay as others pay.
In gold or land or raiment;
In goods that vanish and decay;
But God in wisdom knows a way,
And that is sure, let come what may,
Who does God’s work will get God’s pay.
Yes, he gives a good pay and great opportunities to all people irrespective of age, gender, race, and nationality.
God’s radical generosity describes his generous mercy, grace and justice. When the rainfalls he does it does not fall on one man’s house. Therefore, one can ever complain of being underpaid. While some authors interpret the Parable of the Landowner as God’s method of sharing grace, St. Augustine interprets it as God’s method of sharing eternal life to the righteous. He says:
“At the end of the world all Christians, called at the eleventh hour, will receive the joy of resurrection together with those who went before them. All will be rewarded at the same time, but the first comers will have had the longest to wait. Therefore, if they receive their reward after a longer period and we after a shorter one, the fact that our reward is not delayed will make it seem as though we were receiving it first, even though we all receive it together.��In that great reward, then, we shall all be equal—the first to the last and the last to the first. For the denarius stands for eternal life, in which all will have the same share.”
In his radical generosity God wants ALL PEOPLE to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth (1 Timothy 2:4). It does not matter how long you have worked in the vineyard, but how well. It does not matter who comes first, but who offers him/herself sincerely. Whatever we receive from God is not an entitlement but a privilege. If God treats each one as he/she deserves, who will survive (Psalm 130:3).
The Gospel calls us to be contented with what we have and to be happy for what other people have. Envy is one of the greatest spiritual challenges that obstruct the flow of the grace. Some of the best ways to overcome this challenge is:
*To identify and accept God’s generosity in our lives.
*To be happy for the prosperity and achievement of others.
*To learn to be generous, to think less of ourselves and support those in need who have less than we have.
25th Sunday of the Year A; Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1:20-24, 27; Matthew 20:1-16.
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