A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 43)

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – September 18, 2005

 

“The Good Employer”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 55:6-9 // Phil 1:20c-24, 27a // Mt 20:1-16

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

The biblical scholar, Daniel Harrington entitles this Sunday’s Gospel passage (Mt 20:1-16) “The Parable of the Good Employer”. He explains: “In the context of Jesus’ ministry, the parable was probably addressed to his opponents who criticized him for preaching the good news of the kingdom to tax collectors and sinners. In that setting, the parable is best entitled The Good Employer. The employer is God revealed in Jesus as his representative. God’s own justice and generosity are used to explain why Jesus preached the kingdom to both the already pious and the lost sheep of Israel (cf. Mt 10:6). If they accept his preaching, both groups will be granted an equal share in God’s kingdom.”

 

The Good Employer ensures that everyone will have a place in the heavenly kingdom. The Good Employer who graciously invites and sends workers into his vineyard evokes the graciousness and solicitude of the Good Shepherd seeking out the lost sheep. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, explicate: “It is certainly not by chance that the parable speaks of workers sent to work in the vineyard. The image is a traditional one in the Old and New Testaments to designate God’s people. That it is used here emphatically shows that we are dealing with a parable of the kingdom of heaven. We shall remember from this part of the parable that this master, who goes out at any time to hire workers, behaves much like the shepherd who seeks the lost sheep (Mt 18:12-14). God does not want that any of the little ones, for whom Christ came, be lost or without employment in the kingdom.”

 

The Parable of the Good Employer underlines that our working relationship with God should not be servile and goes beyond the contemporary, industrial logic that those who work a full day receive a full day’s wage while those who work a shorter time receive less. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, elucidate: “Jesus does not give here a lesson in justice or social equity. He intends to drive home what the kingdom of heaven is like … By giving to the workers the salary agreed upon, the master in no way wrongs the workers of the first hour. In any case, they do not dispute this. But they grumble because those who came last are given as much as they. And this is what the master reproaches them with, curtly reminding them that they receive their due. They are envious because the master is generous. Those workers at dawn were hired because the master is good. Through kindness, he offered them a silver coin for their salary. Therefore, they should not only be grateful to him, but also rejoice that others were called later and now receive the same pay. The parable of the workers in the vineyard is to be seen in the same perspective as that of the prodigal son and his older brother (Lk 15:11-32) … Our relationship to God is one of love. Everything I have is yours, says God. How can we not be overwhelmed by such generosity?” Indeed, in the Christian community where everything is grace, there is no room for jealousy and envy, or laying claim to any privileges as if they were deserved.

 

According to Karl Rahner, the point of the whole story is the incalculable mercy, the grace that cannot be reckoned up in terms of wages and justice, the generosity and mercy that ultimately prevails between God and man. Each of us is the recipient of the kindness and generosity of God. Each one is called to utilize the denarius received from him. Karl Rahner asserts: “This parable teaches us to say: we are those who receive the denarius, we ourselves are the denarius. For we receive ourselves, with our destiny, with our freedom certainly and whatever we choose to do with that freedom, but ultimately what we receive is ourselves. This we must accept, not just without grumbling, without inward protest, but with a good will, because it is given to us by God who asks: ‘Do you begrudge my generosity?’ This, then, is our great life’s work: to accept ourselves as the mysterious and gradually revealed gift of the eternal generosity of God. For everything that we are and have, even the painful and mysterious, is God’s generous gift; we must not grumble at it but must accept it in the knowledge that when we do so God gives himself with his gift.”

 

The Parable of the Good Employer concludes with an enigmatic statement: “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will  be last” (Mt 20:16). Daniel Harrington remarks: “By bracketing the parable in Mt 20:1-15 with the sayings about the first and the last in Mt 19:30 and Mt 20:16, and by placing it in the context of the rewards for the disciples (Mt 19:27), the evangelist makes it illustrate Jesus’ promise that the disciples, now considered the last, will be the first in receiving rewards.

 

 

 

PERSONAL REFLECTION

by Gerald Michael G. Galindez

Member: Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles (Scalabrinians)

 

 

            What can work and wages, welfare and unemployment tell us about the kingdom of God? In the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, we see the extraordinary generosity and compassion of God. There is great tragedy in unemployment. In Jesus’ time, hired laborers had to wait each day in the marketplace until someone hired them for a day’s job. No work that day usually meant no food on the family table. The laborers who had worked all the day and received their payment complained that the master paid the late afternoon laborers the same wage. The master undoubtedly hired them in the late afternoon so they would not go home payless and hungry. God is generous in opening the doors of his kingdom to all who will enter, both those who have labored a lifetime for him and those who have come at the last hour. While the reward is the same, the motive for one’s labor can make all the difference. Some work only for reward. They will only put as much effort in proportion to what they think they will receive. Others labor out of love and joy for the opportunity to work. The Lord calls his disciples to serve God and neighbor with generosity and joy. Do you perform your work and duties with cheerfulness for the Lord’s sake? Do you give generously to others, especially to those in need?

            “Lord, may I serve you and my neighbor with a glad and generous heart, not seeking what I can get, but what I can give.”

           

           

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART

 

A.    What is our relationship with the Good Employer? Is it a servile relationship? If so, what can we do about it?

 

B.     Do we believe that in the Father’s kingdom, all are equally loved? Do we believe that God is good and generous and all his gifts are grace? Does this realization drive out the insidious snare of jealousy and envy in our community?

 

C.     Do we receive with joy the “denarius” given to us by God as gift? Do we rejoice in the “denarius” that each one in the Christian community has received?

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD

(Cf. Commission Francophone Cistercienne, Tropaires des dimanches, 115 – Fiche de chant U LH 69)

 

Leader: Happy those you call at first light;

their entire lives are a work of love.

And blessed are you, Father, for the evening workers:

is it ever too late to work in your vineyard?

Assembly: Here we are, Lord, whenever you call.

 

Leader: No more first or last.

God himself is the pay.

Peace to you who were far;

peace to those who were near.

Assembly: Here we are, Lord, whenever you call.

 

Leader: The Master’s goodness is beyond measure.

He wants to make servants his friends.

May I sing to my God the song of his love for his vineyard.

Assembly: Here we are, Lord, whenever you call.

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD

 

            The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.

 

            “My friend, I am not cheating you … Are you envious because I am generous?” (Mt 20:13, 15)

 

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION

 

A.    ACTION PLAN: Pray in thanksgiving to God, the good and generous Employer, who calls us to labor in the vineyard of his kingdom. Pray for the conversion of those who relate to God in a servile manner. In your dealings with the people around you, let them feel the graciousness of the Good Employer described in today’s parable.

 

B.     ACTION PLAN: That we may understand and appreciate more deeply the graciousness of the Good Employer and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 43): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.

 

 

 

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

Go back