Gospel Reflection: Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Malvern Minute



SEPTEMBER 24, 2017


Open our hearts, O Lord,

To listen to the words of your Son.



A reading from the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 20: 1-16a

Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.

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, he 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, he 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.”

The Gospel of the Lord


REFLECTION provided by Monsignor Joseph T.  Marino

Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.  Can you imagine the upheaval you would cause if you, acting as a judge at a race would award the runner who crossed the finish line first as if he came in last, and in turn, declared that the last runner was really first in the line of runners!   To reverse the order of first and last place in any competition would draw the anger of the participants, as well as the confusion and frustration of the spectators.  This proclamation of Jesus must have drawn the same response in His day: anger, confusion and frustration!

It seems as if Jesus told the parable concerning the payment of workers by a generous landowner in order to evoke a strong reaction.  The real purpose of the parable is to emphasize the incredible generosity of our Heavenly Father, and Jesus does this in a way that He has captured everyone’s attention.

Those first hired came to a contractual agreement for wages before they ventured out into the vineyard. They could have refused the landowners offer. Therefore, paying them what they agreed upon should have disturbed no one.   The radical twist in the parable comes when the workers who labored only one hour are paid the same wages as the first group.  How can this be fair to the ones who labored longer?  The added intensity for us who are not the laborers, and who are hearing this parable with an added degree of objectivity, recognize that no injustice has been committed.  While the parable may stir up our feelings, we know in our minds that no wrong has been committed by the owner.

The owner of the vineyard explains his behavior by stating that he is completely free to use his money any way he wants.  In addition the owner declares his right to be generous in any way he chooses, and, we must agree with the logic despite the emotions raised by the parable.

The purpose of the parable is to the reveal an incredible truth: the manner in which the workers were handled sheds light on the way that our Heavenly Father hands out mercy, forgiveness and indeed the gift of eternal life.  The story of the Good Thief on the cross comes to mind when considering someone entering heaven at the last minute and joins all those who labored their whole lives in the ways of Jesus. Remember, it is the will of God that all His children be saved — For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17).

For us who know that we are sinners and do not deserve the mercy of God, rejoice in the forgiveness God has given to us and in the mercy God promises us through this parable.   Yet, there is more to this teaching of Jesus.  The parable challenges us to review the way we think, feel and treat those who at the last minute get the same love and mercy from God as we receive.  We are not to be upset; we should rejoice that our sister and brother will share with us eternal life. There will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).  God always gives more than is required, and more than is demanded by justice.  God’s mercy and generosity is too big for our minds to grasp – it blows our minds – like the parable blew the minds of those listening to Jesus.

And finally, there is one more important point found in this parable — the personal call by God to work in the vineyard of the world on His behalf.   What dignity God has bestowed on us by inviting us to be co-workers with Him for the salvation of all.  Our Baptismal vocation, our call to work with God is a privilege!  And, all who respond with an open heart to the call will receive proper reward – admission into the presence of God!   Praise God for His generosity, His mercy, and His call!



Consider joining the Men and Women of Malvern by deepening your personal relationship with Jesus and your commitment as a disciple through a weekend retreat.  See our Web Site for details: MalvernRetreat.com

addiction-support family find-us history grief-or-loss marriage mens storiespng testimonial womens young-adulthood healing our-grounds prayers calendar malvern-live retreats2go plan-your-visit donate