God Is Generous To All
Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (24/09/2023)
(Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18; Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a; Matthew 20:1-16a)
Fr. Samuel Odeh
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
For all of us who accept God in our lives, whether we be early comers, or late comers who answered the Master’s call at the last minute, God is lavishly generous. We often expect God to measure out his good gifts to his children according to our own standards of fairness and justice, but as we read in our first reading today, God’s ways are above our ways: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8).
Coming first or last in any event is a big issue for most of us, but for those who answer God’s call, all are dealt with equally, whether they be first or last. As today’s psalm puts it, “The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings. The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth” (Psalms 145:17-18).
For Paul in today’s second reading from his letter to the Philippians, there is something greater than coming first or last when it comes to winning God’s favor. For him, it is most important that Christ be magnified or honored in his person, either by his living or dying: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Jesus’ parable in today’s gospel reading is meant to give us a picture of how affairs are conducted in “the kingdom of heaven”. The householder hires laborers at different intervals during the day to work on his vineyard, yet generously rewards those who were hired late with the same pay as those who came first. Those who came first, though not cheated, were offended by his generosity to those they considered undeserving as themselves. In our world today, dominated by the values of Western civilization, competition is favored above cooperation. This is not how it works in the kingdom of heaven. It is not our muscles, alone or even together with our hearts, that win us God’s favor; this is more about who God is than about our labors and efforts. We are sometimes like the laborers who were unhappy with the householder’s generosity. We sometimes doubt the sincerity of latecomers like those who accept Christ very late on their deathbeds. We offer little assurance to hopeless sinners or to those estranged from the church. God, on the other hand, abundantly offers his generosity equally to all who believe in him, saints and sinners alike, early comers and latecomers. We often forget that most of God’s kindnesses, mercies and favors came to us without our lifting a finger to do any work. If we believe in the kingdom of heaven which Christ brought to us and wish to make that kingdom a reality on earth, then we who have received without charge must also give without charge. We pray today that we may rely on God, enjoying his mercies and favors wherever we find ourselves on the journey of faith, more than we rely on our own efforts and abilities to earn our deliverance from evil and our eternal salvation.
“..that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).