Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.
Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a
Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “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, the landowner 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, the landowner 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.”
Seek the Lord! From the very first reading today from the Prophet Isaiah, we are told to seek God, to seek the Lord, to look for the divine. Most of us are fairly relaxed about seeking God and we get around to this religious work without much stress. That is probably good. The challenge for us is to realize how wonderful God is and how much God loves us.
Today’s Gospel from Saint Matthew is trying to tell about God’s love. God does not care when we turn to Him. He always wants us to turn to Him right now. Now is the time of salvation. Always the reward is the same: complete love and acceptance and the forgiveness of our sins. Some Christians in earlier times took this as a way to put off conversion and wait until the end of life to be baptized. This is a complete misunderstanding of God’s love. God wants to love us now! God wants to share His life with us now!
This Gospel account wants us to understand that whenever we turn to God, God is there to receive us. God always loves us. Always. God is present with His love inviting every moment of our lives. We want to live in a way which responds to God’s love.
The Gospel is also a teaching against envy. We can surely understand that if we have been on the path of the Lord, we have given up various aspects of pleasure and delight that the world values. The present values of the world want us to think that we should always seek our own good first, that we should have as much pleasure as possible, that we should strive to have money and power, and so on. These are not the values of the Gospel.
Honestly, of course, we can admire those who seem to have everything in this world. The real value, however, is in our hearts. If our hearts are not set on God and seeking God, then all else is vanity and emptiness. This is the meaning of the second reading today, from the Letter to the Philippians: conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.
The language of the Gospel and of the New Testament in general can at times sound like an obligation. The heart of the New Testament however is not obligation but invitation. Jesus invites us to know the love of the Father. Jesus invites to live in the joy of the Holy Spirit. Jesus invites to embrace the Cross, but only because we love Him, not because suffering is good of itself. If we are to love completely in this world, we will learn to embrace the Cross of Jesus.
We must be free of all envy. Others may have more that we do in this life, but our task is to have hearts that are rich in grace and love. Come, Lord Jesus!