Engaging the Gospel – Matthew 20:1-16a

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Gospel – Matthew 20:1-16a

The generous landowner in this parable symbolizes God, and the daily wage He gives to all the workers, regardless of their length of service, represents the gift of eternal life with Him.

“In the Kingdom of God, the pay or wages is God Himself,” as St. John Paul II explained:

When it comes to salvation in the Kingdom of God, it is not a question of just wages, but of the undeserved generosity of God, Who gives Himself as the supreme gift to each and every person who shares in divine life through sanctifying grace.

…When we receive a gift, we must respond with a gift. We can only respond to the gift of God in Jesus Christ — his Cross and Resurrection…with the gift of ourselves…one can never match or equal the value of God’s gift of Himself to us.

Homily of September 19, 1987.

Once we view our lives through the prism of God’s generosity, we cultivate a sense of gratitude for all of his gifts. On the other hand, if we fail to be grateful, and instead compare ourselves to others as the grumbling workers in the parable did, we open ourselves up to envy.

The sin of envy involves “sadness at the sight of another’s goods,” or conversely, “joy caused by the misfortune of a neighbor.” Envy is fundamentally a “refusal of charity” because it seeks to deprive our neighbor, rather than to promote his good (Catechism paragraphs 2539-40).

Question for reflection: How do I deal with temptations to envy?

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Love God Above All

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 2052 through 2141:

  • The Ten Commandments are our roadmap to true freedom, as opposed to the bondage of sin; it is no accident that God revealed them after liberating the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, to teach a new way of life for a free people.
  • Indeed, this context is vital to understanding the profound meaning of the Commandments: they were given during a “theophany,” or God’s manifestation to His people, and His forming an intimate bond, a “covenant,” with them.
  • The Commandments are a great gift because they describe what we must do to abide in this deep relationship with God; He loved us first, and we respond with love toward Him by keeping the Commandments; the first three regard our right behavior toward God, and the rest govern our relationships with our neighbor.
  • The First Commandment expresses this wholehearted relationship: “I am the Lord your God…You shall have no other gods before Me.”
  • We follow this commandment by adoring God, submitting to Him as the Lord of all, to Whom we owe everything; by daily conversing with Him in prayer, uniting our sacrifices with Christ’s perfect sacrifice; by keeping the promises we make to God; and by helping others to come to the fullness of worship in the Church.
  • Conversely, we sin against God when we prefer other things to Him, and treat them as gods; this is idolatry; our idols need not be the false gods of paganism, for we create modern idols all of the time – money, power, pleasure, sports, etc.
  • We sin against God’s love when we are indifferent to Him, spiritually lazy, ungrateful, or hateful toward Him; we sin against hope when we despair of God’s mercy and forgiveness, or when we presume upon salvation without real conversion; we sin against faith by doubting or rejecting Church teaching.
  • Dabbling in the occult is a sin – e.g., reading horoscopes, going to mediums, engaging in magic; we also sin by falling into superstition, treating our prayers or sacraments as if they were magical formulas; to avoid superstition, we must have a proper disposition of encountering God, not trying to control Him.
  • The sin of sacrilege denigrates sacred things or persons, and is especially heinous when directed against the Eucharist, the Real Presence of Christ; other forms of irreligious behavior include testing God because we question His love for us.
  • By definition, atheism is a sin because of its outright denial of God, and agnosticism, which won’t discern one way or another, similarly fails to give God His due; yet an individual’s level of culpability varies greatly according to circumstances, especially if one has been scandalized by the sins of believers.

Live Your Faith

Each one of us is personally addressed by God in the Commandments, as the Hebrew text makes clear. When God says, “You,” He is using the singular form, not the plural, underscoring the personal relationship He courts with every single one of us.

This prompts us to examine our consciences, and reflect upon how faithfully we have given love in response to the One Who has loved us so. What do I put first in my life, prioritizing above everything else? If it’s not God, it’s an idol.