25th Sunday Isaiah .25/6-9, Philippi 1/20-27
The main theme of the readings is concerned with justice and fairness on the one side and divine grace or mercy on the other side. Justice means giving everyone his or her due. On the other hand, grace is undeserved kindness. God rewards us not in the measure of what we do or what we deserve but according to his good will. Salvation is never human merit, but it is always divine mercy. Even the initiative for our salvation comes from God, and it is our duty to extend our co-operation to God’s design for our salvation.
In the first reading from the Book of Isaiah, we see that Yahweh is ready to pardon the infidelity of the Israelites and he will liberate them from the Babylon captivity and will lead them back to their homeland and will bless them with material and spiritual blessings.
The second reading is Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Philippi was a rich city of Macedonia and though it was far from Rome it had the status of a Roman City and the Philippines were not obliged to pay taxes to the government. The Philippians dressed like the Romans and they spoke the language of Rome. Yet Paul was reminding them that their true citizenship was not in Rome, but in Heaven. Hence, they must follow the way of the Gospel.
The Gospel passage from Matthew is concerned with fairness (justice) versus divine mercy. Justice or fairness involves:
(a) Equals must be treated equally, and the unequal must be treated unequally
(b) First come, First served
(c) More hours of work lead to higher wages if other things remain the same
(d) Higher the skills or better the quality of labor, there will be better rewards, Also there is a saying “Life is not fair” but God the Lord of life is fair”.
But in the Gospel passage, we see the master, or the King does not follow the minimum precept of fairness in the parable, we see the Lord or the Master distributing the same amount of wages to all. Furthermore, he asks the manager that he must give the wages, starting first with the late comers. According to our human wisdom all these actions of the landlord are not fair. But to understand the true meaning of this parable we must know the background of the incident. Our Lord Jesus welcomes the sinners, Samaritans, tax collectors, Gentiles, and poor people. Pharisees and the Scribes on the other hand had an extremely negative attitude towards them and they hated them. By this parable Jesus was giving a serious warning to the Jews that they should not look down upon the Gentiles, Tax Collectors, Samaritans, and others in the society. Furthermore, Jesus wanted to give a warning to the Pharisees and Serbs that salvation is God’s mercy and it is not human merit. Moreover, Jesus wants us to remind his own disciples that they should not expect any special place or honor, all are equal before God.
Also, the Lord Jesus is giving a stern warning to all, that human beings are human and finite beings and they are not able to judge God’s behavior. God is infinite in His Wisdom, Power, Goodness and Love.” My ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts, for as the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah.55/8-9
It is to be noted that the parable does not justify injustices, exploitations, and unjust discriminations of any sort. The mind of one Lord Jesus was evident in the life of the early Christian community where the principle of distribution was “to each according to his need and from each according to his ability”.
Finally, the parable gives hope for all persons, even though they are late to come into the kingdom of God. Like the thief at the right side of our Lord, so many saints were able to enter the Kingdom of God and Sainthood at the last days of their lives.
Dorothy Day is a Servant of God, from N.Y. USA, early days of her life were once characterized as an atheist, rebel, revolutionary and a communist. She was born in a non-Catholic family, but during the last years of her life she embraced Catholicism and lived as an authentic Catholic Saint.