Homily, Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18; Philippians 1:20C-24, 27A; Matthew 20:1-16A
My homily at the 8:00 and 10:00 Masses at Holy Ghost today.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. These are the words of God, proclaimed by the Prophet Isaiah in today’s First reading. In her wisdom, the Church pairs this first reading with today’s gospel containing the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard.
There are at least two reflections we can make on today’s parable, each of which helps us to see life with the mind of God, rather than with the mind of man:
1. God is kind and extremely generous. He is love itself. We must imitate his generosity in all that we do.
2. We must not be envious of our neighbor’s good fortune, but be happy for them. Likewise, we must not rejoice when others fail.
Our first lesson is to realize that God is infinitely generous. Let’s be honest, the situation in today’s gospel really seems unfair. Most of us would agree that the laborers who worked all day had a reasonable expectation to be paid more than those who worked just part of the day. They had a right to be upset. Why should the guys who only worked for just an hour or two get paid the same amount as those who worked for eight or ten hours? It just doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Well, it isn’t fair, at least not by our standards. But today’s parable is not about fairness, it’s about mercy and generosity. It sheds light onto God’s merciful nature, on his unparalleled generosity, using the example of the landowner who was so generous with the laborers he hired later in the day.
You see, in Jesus’ time so many people lived day to day. The laborers of the parable were the lowest class of Jewish working men. They lived on the poverty level. If they were unemployed on any given day, their family went to bed hungry. Their situation was known to be so bad that when they were hired for a day’s work, Jewish law commanded they be paid before sundown.
The landowner in today’s gospel knew that these men he hired late in the day would suffer if they didn’t receive a full day’s wage. Rather than paying them what they were OWED, he paid them what they NEEDED. He was generous with them in the same way God is generous with us. Imagine if God gave us only what we deserved, rather than what we truly need. If that were the case, we’d be in a world of hurt!
Our second lesson found in today’s gospel is that we must NOT be ENVIOUS of the good fortune of others, but we should be happy for them!
Not only did the landowner pay the men who worked only part of the day the same wage as those who worked all day, but he paid them FIRST to be sure the others knew he was doing it. He didn’t wait until the all-day laborers left to offer the part-day laborers his generous gift privately. No, it was almost as if he was taunting the all-day laborers with his generosity.
We can easily imagine that they were envious of these men who were the recipients of his generous gift. Can’t you hear what they must have been thinking? “Just who do they think they are to be treated this way?”
One of the seven deadly sins is ENVY. Envy is also known as JEALOUSY. If we’re honest, we’ve all experienced jealously…all of us, one way or another. When something good happens to someone we know we have a tendency to sulk a little bit, don’t we? Why did he get that promotion and not me? Why is he able to have a new car and I have to drive this old clunker? Whatever it might be, we all have a tendency to be jealous of the good fortune of others.
The other side of this coin is that we may take delight when our friends fail. You know, that feeling we get when someone who seems to be so perfect has a great fall or is discovered to be less perfect than she appears to be. Let’s be honest, it’s so easy to think, YES! He finally failed!
Envy, jealousy. It is DEADLY and I suspect the all-day laborers were a bit envious of the good fortune of the others, just as we so often are envious of those who seem to have it better than we do.
The antidote to envy is ADMIRATION. Admiration. We are called to be happy for the good fortune of our friends. You see, everything we have is a gift from God, therefore the proper response when something good comes to someone is to admire and give thanks for that gift, regardless if it comes to us or to someone else.
Here’s some practical advice from Bishop Barron as to how to get envy out of your life. He says that we should go out of our way to praise someone we are envious of.
We can all think of someone right now who we envy, even if it’s just a little bit. Bishop Barron’s advice is that we take the initiative the next time you see that person to praise him or her for some quality they have. If you make this a habit, you’ll soon find yourself seeing the good in others, rather than being jealous or finding fault with them. You’ll find yourself being happy for the good fortune of others and you’ll be able to share in their suffering should they experience some sort of misfortune.
If they had put the virtue of admiration into practice, rather than the sin of envy, the all-day laborers would have rejoiced when this good fortune came to their fellow laborers. Rather than responding, “not fair!” they would have responded, “good for them!”
To summarize these two reflections on today’s parable, I offer the following practical advice.
First, the next time you have an opportunity to be GENEROUS with someone, do it! Be generous with others as God is generous with you. You might want to give a big tip to a restaurant server who you know could use the money. Or, maybe offer to babysit for a couple who you know really need a night out. Whatever you do, do it with a spirit of generosity and don’t count the cost.
Secondly, remember to praise someone you might be envious of. Tell them how much you appreciate the qualities they have and how happy you are for their good fortune. And if someone you’ve envied falls, don’t rejoice in their failure, but be there to pick them up. Help them in their time of need. Show them that you care for them, regardless of how you may have a felt about them in the past.
In the coming week, each and every day of the week, let’s try to think more like God thinks; to love more like God loves. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to fall afresh upon us to change our hearts and our minds. These simple actions will certainly help our thoughts to become more like God’s thoughts and our ways to become more like his ways.
God bless you.