The 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – year A – September 24, 2023
Lectionary Readings: Isa. 55:6-9; Ps. 144 (145):2-3.8-9.17-18; Phil. 1:20-24.27; Matt. 20:1-16
Theme: Same maximum reward for all.
The gospel tells us the parable of a landowner who called for workers for his vineyard. From the story, we get a glimpse of the kingdom of God as Jesus tells us of God’s surprising ways. This is shown by the way the owner made the call for workers and gave their reward.
The setting of today’s story is a vineyard (also in Matt 21:28-32 and 21:33-41) which in the Hebrew Scriptures symbolizes peace and prosperity (1 Kings 4:25, Mic 4:4; Zech 3:10). It is also the imagery of Israel as “God’s vineyard.” (Isa 5:1-7; 27:2-6; Jer 12:10); the vineyard is Israel. (Matt 21:33-46). In view of this, France (2007) says, “God’s kingship over Israel continues in his kingship over the disciples of Jesus.”
Most theologians and religious leaders today identity the landowner simply as God, the God of the Jews and of the believers of Jesus, the God of all. In his September 2020 homily, Pope Francis said the owner represents God who calls everyone and calls always, at any hour. God does not stay shut in within His World but “goes out.” The Holy Father added, “He continually seeks out people, because he does not want anyone to be excluded from His loving plan.”
In the parable, recorded only by Matthew, the landowner went out five times to call workers. The last batch of workers were asked why they had stood idle the whole day. Their reply was that it was because “no one has hired us,” indicating that they were the least desirable workers. They were the unwanted and considered unworthy, passed over by other employers. This made them the “last” not just in the order of hiring. Commentators have said that they include the tax collectors and prostitutes whom Jesus said “are going ahead” into the kingdom of God because they believed (Matthew 21:31).
What is considered a surprise and a reversal in the story was that every one who has worked in the vineyard, regardless of the hours of work rendered, got the same amount of wage. Then and now, a worker’s wage has been usually based on the work hours rendered. But not in the story. The first batch and the last batch of workers all got the same amount of wage.
This giving of the same reward was met by outrage and complaints. But the owner insisted on giving the same maximum of pay to everyone even to those who arrived last. He has kept his promise as he gave the agreed wage for the first batch of workers who had rendered a full day’s work under the heat of the sun. It is an act of justice. When he gave the same pay to the other batch of workers who worked for less number of hours, it is an act of generosity and mercy. Pope Francis says: “God does not pay halfway. He pays everything.”
The parable tells us that God goes out of His way to invite us to go into His kingdom. Everyone of us, even the most unworthy and the biggest sinner among us, is given not one but many chances to say yes to His invitation. And the big miracle is that all of us, whether we are the first or the last to answer His call, are to get the same full reward in His kingdom.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1.Do you consider yourself a good worker in the vineyard of the Lord? 2. What should be your priorities to become a better worker for the kingdom of God?
Bibliography: France, The Gospel of Matthew (Michigan, 2007); Harrington, Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Matthew(Minnesota: 2007); https://www.popefrancishomilies.com/kingdom-of-god
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, Bat Kol alumna July 2014 and July 2023