25th Sunday of Ordinary time (24 September 2017)

Isa 55:6-9; Philippians 1:20-24, 27; Matt 20:1-16

The readings this week focus on the immensity of God’s love for us. His is a love we cannot understand; a profound and forgiving love that has no bounds. We cannot approach it from a human perspective. Instead we are called to live for His mission.
In the first reading, Isaiah gives us both a promise and a warning. The Lord is rich in mercy and He will forgive readily those who turn to Him; but we who seek His forgiveness must act quickly while there is still time. Our human ways will often cause us to think either that we should be self-absorbed rather than God-centered; or that our sins are so severe that there is no way we can be reconciled. But Isaiah teaches us that God’s ways are not our ways. No sin can keep us from Him and in spite of all our sins, He waits for us to return to Him. Of course if we choose to remain in our sins we are choosing separation from Him. We must therefore choose to triumph over our sins, be reconciled with Him and live as His people.
In the Gospel we see the full revelation of this truth. Jesus likens God’s Kingdom to the landowner who throughout the course of a day offers employment to groups of available workers. It is only the first group, hired at the start for a full day that is told what awaits them for their work – a denarius. The rest are promised a fair wage. From a human perspective the fair resolution would be to pro-rate the day’s wage according to the time spent at work. But when day’s end comes, the landowner gives the last man hired for an hour the same as the man who worked a full day. This seems unfair to us because we approach it from the perspective of merit and entitlement. It is true the last man did not earn the full day’s denarius; but nor did the first man earn anything more than the denarius because he agreed to work for that. The key to the Gospel is the understanding that we have done nothing to deserve or earn God’s grace. Yet it is given to us freely because He is generous beyond imagination; and as our Creator, He loves us in a way we cannot ever understand. Our response should be to focus on His great generosity. And when we evangelize, our focus needs to be on God and on telling others of His great love for them, rather than our sense of righteousness for having been graced.
In the second reading, Paul perfectly reflects these truths. He knew God’s glory does not depend on anything we do and had an acute sense of Christ’s mercy in his life in having intervened and transformed him from persecutor to Apostle. And so, his greatest desire was to be reunited with Christ. But his first priority was to serve the Lord and fulfill the purpose for which he was saved. And so, as Isaiah taught, Paul approached life seeking to fulfill God’s purpose rather than his own desire.
Some points to reflect on as you read the readings

  1. Why is it important to take urgent steps to be reconciled with God? How should life change as a result of reconciliation? How do you need to be reconciled?
  2. What was the nature of Paul’s dilemma? Why is this noteworthy? How is God calling you to a mission that is at odds with your wants?
  3. How do you feel towards the first man who was called and the last man? Is it wrong to feel you deserve a better end than those whose lifestyles you dislike?