Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalm 144(145):2-3, 8-9, 17-18 Philippians 1:20-24, 27; Matthew 20:1-16
In its original context, tonight’s Gospel reading is speaking about the new converts to Christianity, the Gentile Christians, the non-Jew Christians, who were ‘late-comers’ to enter into a saving relationship with Jesus. Since Jesus was originally sent to the chosen people, the ‘lost sheep’ of the people of Israel, who were the chosen people of God, non-Jews i.e. the pagans and the Gentiles, were considered to be outside of the people of God, and therefore excluded from Salvation history.
In this situation, the entry of the non-Jews (i.e the Gentiles) into the early Christian community meant that there needed to be a message of the generosity of God in granting these ‘late-comers’ the same salvation as the Jewish members of the early Christian community, that both Jews and Gentiles belonged to the same Christian Community of the People of God.
So, this Gospel is not about the fairness of the wage system as we understand it today, where it is unfair, if you only work two or three hours, to be paid a full day’s wage for those who have worked a full day. That is not the focus of our Gospel this Sunday. Instead, the focus of our Gospel reading is on the generosity of God in bringing the late-comers, these non-Jew Gentiles, into the early Christian community as equal disciples of Jesus, Lord and Saviour.
Incidentally, our parish has just started our RCIA in accompanying two inquirers on their journey to baptism at the Easter Vigil in 2024. Please pray for them, that God will bless them, and accompany them with his generous love and compassion.
Given this background, what are our readings teaching us?
Firstly, our first reading tells us that the Lord is near to those who seek him – God is always close to those who seek him with a repentant, sincere and open heart – this message is picked up in our response to the psalm – The Lord is near to call who call him. The generosity of God does not depend on whether we are early or late to accept and respond to the presence of the Lord who draws near to us. This gift of the Lord is pure gift, pure grace. We do not merit his grace, we cannot earn our salvation, not matter how hard we work, or whether we work a full day’s work or only work one or two hours.
Secondly, our second reading reminds us to stay focused on our relationship with Jesus – this means avoiding anything in our everyday lives that would be unworthy of the Gospel of Christ. This means that our lives are to give witness to the Good News of Jesus, who is generous to one and all. So, while there are appropriate boundaries in our lives in relating to others, and to work, and the Gospel of Christ does not mean that we live our lives in a naïve way, yet we still need to consider, and discern what it means to live lives of generosity in following Jesus in our lives.
Finally, our Gospel in asking us to consider what living not based on merit and fairness looks like. We can look at the older brother in the story of the Loving father and the two sons in Luke’s Gospel. When the younger brother (commonly called the prodigal son) came home after wasting his father’s money and living a life of lavish spending and self- indulgence, his generous father welcomed him home with feasting, music and dancing. However, his older brother refused to enter the house and join in the celebration, telling his father angrily, (Lk. 15:29-30) “Listen! For all these years, I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!”
So, we need to be careful not to let our sense of fairness when paying someone a full day’s wage for a full day’s work versus still paying a full day’s wage for only one or two hours work prevent us from recognising the generosity, mercy, forgiveness of God towards us today, and every day of our lives. May we be similarly generous in our living in faith, hope and love, and in so doing, be Good News for others.
Deacon Michael Tan is Deacon Assisting at St John the Evangelist Parish, Riverstone.