25th Sunday Ordinary Time
24th September 2023
A reading from the prophet Isaiah 55:6–9
Seek the Lord while he is still to be found,
call to him while he is still near.
Let the wicked man abandon his way,
the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn back to the Lord who will take pity on him,
to our God who is rich in forgiving;
for my thoughts are not your thoughts,
my ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks.
Yes, the heavens are as high above earth
as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 144:2–3, 8–9, 17–18
R. The Lord is near to all who call him.
I will bless you day after day
and praise your name for ever.
The Lord is great, highly to be praised,
his greatness cannot be measured. R.
The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
How good is the Lord to all,
compassionate to all his creatures. R.
The Lord is just in all his ways
and loving in all his deeds.
He is close to all who call him,
who call on him from their hearts. R.
A reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Philippians 1:20–24, 27
Christ will be glorified in my body, whether by my life or by my death.
Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then death would bring me something more; but then again, if living in this body means doing work which is having good results – I do not know what I should choose. I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ, which would be very much the better, but for me to stay alive in this body is a more urgent need for your sake.
Avoid anything in your everyday lives that would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew 20:1–16
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.” In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last-comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’
(Resources above supplied by Liturgy Brisbane)
FR WREX’S HOMILY
25th Sunday Ordinary Time.
24th September, 2023
The story is told of a Dad who gave his young daughter a beautiful stuffed tiger on his birthday. The little girl was delighted with her gift and immediately started cuddling it and playing games with it in front of her dad. But then she stopped as she realized what had happened and said to her dad: “But Daddy, it’s your birthday, not mine! I should have given you a present, not you to me”. To which the Dad replied: “Gorgeous, you have given me the most beautiful present a daughter could give her father. It is seeing the happiness that my gift has given you which is the most beautiful present I could ever want”. As Winston Churchill once said: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”.
The readings today invite us all to take another look at things and see them in a different light. It is not just the Gospel that challenges our preconceptions, but each of them in their own way invite us to rethink our attitudes.
The prophet Isaiah tries to do it to build up hope. His nation has been in exile for going on 80 years and are more or less resigned to their fate. They are being punished for what their ancestors have done and nothing can be done about it. Their God seems so far away, almost untouchable. But Isaiah won’t have a bar of it. God has not abandoned them: “Seek the Lord”, he tells them, “while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near”! They may think that there is no way they can be forgiven, but “God’s thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways God’s ways”. You may have trouble forgiving yourself or your ancestors but God will abundantly pardon
For Paul, it is to try to make sense of his mission. He is writing to the Philippians from prison, not knowing from day to day what will happen next. But rather than get depressed, he looks for the positive on both sides. His preaching is centred around the resurrection of Jesus, not just for Jesus himself, but as the first fruits of all those who die. In a sense, he needs to put his money where his mouth is and look forward to sharing life with Christ but, then again, he realizes that his mission is far from over and there is much more to be done. He is conflicted but content with the conflict!
The Gospel parable originally would have been directed to Jewish Christians who found it difficult to accept the inclusion of non-Jews in their community. Matthew’s Gospel is written for a Christian community with strong Jewish links. With growing antagonism between the Synagogue and the Church there is pressure to disown these latecomers, the non-Jews, and see only those with a Jewish background as deserving of the riches of the kingdom. Matthew argues that nobody is more deserving of the rewards of the kingdom than anybody else. He even suggests it may well be a total flip! “The first will be last and the last first.”
But it is not so much a question of who is first and who is last, or about what justice demands, or even who deserves what. Rather it is a question of generosity and responding to basic needs.
The plight of a day labourer is difficult in any culture, as one lives from day to day on whatever that day offers. How much more in the time of Jesus when the wage was a subsistence one, and there was no fallback to unemployment benefits and savings. To miss out on a day’s work and therefore a day’s wage was to be left with no food for one’s family. The fact that the unemployed labourers are still there late into the afternoon shows how desperate they are to get whatever, no matter how little, to feed the family.
But there are probably not too many of us who would be willing to rejoice in their good fortune, rather than complain about the inequity of what one had to do to obtain the same reward.
Likewise, on this World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis suggests we need to relook at the whole question. Rather than solely focus on where refugees end up, we should also look at the cause of their condition: in other words, why did they have to leave in the first place. The theme of this year – “Free to Choose whether to Migrate or to Stay” – raises the challenge as to what we can do to face the problem at its roots. Drawing a parallel with the Holy Family and their Flight into Egypt, the Pope states that “the decision to emigrate should always be free, yet in many cases, even in our day, it is not.” Recognizing that “conflicts, natural disasters or more simply the impossibility of living a dignified and prosperous life in one’s own land is forcing millions of people to leave”, he quotes Pope John Paul II who in 2003 stated that “building conditions of peace means in practice being seriously committed to safeguarding first of all the right ‘NOT to emigrate’, that is, the right to live in peace and dignity in one’s own country”.
If we are to do that, we need not just look at what is happening in those countries, but what we can do and, even more so, what we can stop doing that can help create such conditions. Our focus on our own self-interest which puts our own economic interests first, plunders other peoples’ resources, and rapes the world’s treasures, needs to change to a broader concern for others. Then refuges and migrants might not only find a reason not to emigrate but even a freedom to return, without falling victim to “perilous illusions and unscrupulous traffickers”.
But, in the meantime, the Pope challenges us to change our attitude to migrants, not just seeing them as a brother or sister in difficulty, but Christ himself, who knocks at our door. Developing maximum respect for the dignity of each migrant, we are called to construct bridges and not walls, expanding channels for a safe and regular migration. But, the most important thing is that there is always a community ready to welcome, protect, promote and integrate everyone, without distinctions and without excluding anyone.
Are we a community that lives up to the Pope’s challenge and rejoice in their good fortune, or are we jealous in holding on to our own good fortune?