Sunday Sipping: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First Reading: Isaiah 55:6-9
Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
Second Reading: Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a
Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16a

We live in a capitalistic society. If you work longer than someone, you get paid more than them. If you have many years of service and experience at a particular job, you tend to expect more perks and prompter recognition than those with less experience. It’s just common sense. Yet Sunday’s readings remind us how different God’s justice is from our notions of justice, His ways from our ways, and His thoughts from our thoughts.

To help us understand these ideas better, let’s turn to an allegorical interpretation of the Gospel parable that comes from St. Augustine, in his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. In our present lives, God calls people to do His work. The workers called at dawn are like those who have been Christian all their life. The workers called at nine o’clock represent those who have been Christian since adolescence and so forth (i.e. noon corresponds with Christians since adulthood, three o’clock with the ones who started on the verge of old age, and five o’clock for those who began being Christian close to the end of their lives). The payment that God promises to all of us is eternal life and indeed it seems that those who started as Christians towards the end of their life receive payment first because they don’t have to wait long for the reward, whereas those who have been Christian nearly all their lives seem to be paid last. It is in light of this interpretation that we can more fully appreciate God’s generosity. God always fulfills His promises and the just wage that He seeks to entrust to us is truly much more than we deserve, no matter how much work we say we put in for it!

Now, there may be some clever ones out there who realize that perhaps we can defer working for the Lord a little longer. Perhaps I can hold off on bearing the “day’s burden and heat.” Besides, whether I respond to God now or later, I get the same pay right? St. Augustine’s commentary has a particular warning to those who think this way. Namely, you don’t know when your “workday” will end. You don’t even know if you will reach old age or not. So how are you to be so sure that you will be rewarded in the end if you delay? Indeed, that is why God enjoins us in the First Reading from Isaiah, “Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near.” At what other time can you seek the LORD than now? When is He nearer to you than now? Don’t delay! You don’t know if you have tomorrow, but you have today. So today, respond to God’s call and as St. Paul writes in the Second Reading, “conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.”