Central idea: Fruitful workers. Doctrine: Right Conduct. Practical application: Stop sinning and start loving.
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Central idea: Fruitful workers
Reading 1 Is 55:6-9
Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.
- Advent is a time in which the Church invites us to think about time. The time we are alive in this world is the time we have to seek the LORD. Now is the time in which he can be found. This implies there will be a time in which either we will not be able to seek him or we will not be able to find him, or both. That time will begin at the moment of our death.
- What are our thoughts which are not God’s thoughts? Our thoughts are to rationalize, to justify our sins. We say what is wrong is right. We can claim that God approves of sin, of course not just any sin, but our particular sin. We can be the wicked scoundrel.
- But God’s ways are not our ways, unless we make the effort to adopt them, with his assistance.
- We cannot truthfully claim that God approves sin. However, we can stumble and fall, and God will lift us back up if we turn to him for mercy through his forgiveness, but not if we say ‘I am standing’ when we are really in the muck.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
- God’s ways are not our ways. God is good even if we are not. All we have to do is call upon him and he will be near to us in his greatness, grace, mercy, kindness, goodness, compassion, justice, and holiness. As Isaiah just reminded us, this is the time in which to seek the LORD.
- We bless and praise God, or as St. Paul will say, we ‘magnify’ him, because of his manifold goodness.
- All we have to do is to turn to him, with one important stipulation: we must “call upon him in truth.” This is why St. Paul will remind the Philippians, “Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
Reading 2 Phil 1:20c-24, 27a
Brothers and sisters:
Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.
If I go on living in the flesh,
that means fruitful labor for me.
And I do not know which I shall choose.
I am caught between the two.
I long to depart this life and be with Christ,
for that is far better.
Yet that I remain in the flesh
is more necessary for your benefit.
Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.
- Even though Paul has the high status of Apostle, all the baptized are in the same situation. Our lives are to be a “fruitful labor” to benefit others. The reward, which begins with the death of the body, is the “gain” of to “be with Christ.”
- We glorify Christ now in our bodies, that is, in this life, if we conduct ourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.
- We magnify or glorify Christ now by our good conduct and fruitful work.
Gospel Mt 20:1-16a
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
the landowner found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
- This parable of the workers in the vineyard is like the parable of the prodigal son. The owner of the vineyard is like the father, the first-hired laborers are like the older, faithful brother, and the last-hired laborers are like the prodigal son. The first-hired laborers are upset by the behavior of the landowner and the elder brother is upset by the behavior of his father. Both think they are being treated unjustly.
- The parable of the prodigal son focuses on God’s unconditional love, while this parable focuses on God’s generosity. God’s goodness is for every one of his children: all we have to do, with his help, is to turn to him.
- God offers eternal life and happiness to everyone who turns to him. That is generosity.
- We who follow him should not compare ourselves with others. One reason is that we don’t have enough knowledge even of ourselves to know how much merit we have in God’s eyes. Have we really borne the day’s burden and the heat? We certainly don’t know how others stand. This is why Our Lord says, “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” It should be enough for us to turn away from our evil ways and do the “fruitful labor,” the good work, set before us.
- A second reason we should not compare ourselves with others is that we can become falsely proud and, consequently, upset at the best thing in the universe: God’s generous love. We have to remember that God’s ways are not our ways.
Doctrine: Right Conduct
- Paul advises the Philippians to “conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
- This is what the entire third part of the Catechism deals with: “the final end of man created in the image of God” and how to reach this end (CCC 16).
- This final end for which we have been created, but are not guaranteed to reach, is beatitude, that is, eternal life.
- What are the ways of reaching it? There are two ways, according to the Catechism, and the second builds on the first.
- Simply put, the first is to stop sinning and the second is to start loving.
- The first way of reaching the beatitude for which we have been created, which pertains to every human being, is “through right conduct freely chosen, with the help of God’s law and grace” (CCC 16). Everyone has the obligation to do what is right and just. The basic moral law is written in every human heart, so everyone is capable of knowing it. God also offers everyone sufficient grace to do what is right in order to be saved.
- On the other hand, we Catholics know, or ought to know, God’s law very clearly, since the Church teaches it to us. We also have the grace of the sacraments to give us strength to freely choose and to act with right conduct. We also have the Sacraments of Healing when we fail.
- The second way of reaching the beatitude for which we have been created is “through conduct that fulfills the twofold commandment of charity, specified in God’s Ten Commandments” (CCC 16).
- The twofold commandment is to love God above all things and your neighbor as yourself. These two commandments are specified in the Ten Commandments, the first three pertaining to love for God and the final seven for love for neighbor. Part three of the Catechism reveals how deeply this love can be specified, considering every kind of conduct toward God and neighbor.
- We can also add that Our Lord has importantly modified love of neighbor beyond “as yourself.” In his new law of love he counseled us to love one another has he has loved us, that is, without limit, with a sacrificial love.
Practical application: Stop sinning and start loving
- It should be clear that nothing is more practical than the advice to “conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ” since it deals with our concrete behavior and on it depends our eternal life.
- It is up to each one of us to say to Our Lord, “Yes, I want to do that. Help me.”
- The two ways, pertain to us, as well. The first is to stop sinning. Stop the mortal sins and confess them. Begin to identify the venial sins and work on eliminating them. The struggle against sin is life-long. One would be foolish to say, “I don’t sin anymore.”
- The second is to start loving God and neighbor and to keep loving more. This is also a life-long endeavor. We can never say, “I love enough.”
- One can ask himself, “What do I need more at this point in my life, to stop sinning or to start loving?” and then to act accordingly.
- Of course, every single day it is necessary to say no to sin and to take advantage of opportunities to love.
- In regard to our good and bad conduct, we don’t want to become proud if we are successful or paralyzed by discouragement if we are not. Neither do we want to see the moral life only as a duty. Rather, the moral life is the pursuit of integral human fulfillment or happiness, motivated by love and aided by the life of the Spirit.
- In this life-long struggle to stop sinning and to start loving, we can take advantage of the theological virtue of hope which was infused in us at our Baptism. God will keep his promises to us and he will help us keep our promises to him.
The Homiletic Directory recommends the following Catechism points and themes for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time:
- CCC 210-211: God of mercy and piety;
- CCC 588-589: Jesus identifies his compassion to sinners with God’s.