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"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "

25th SUNDAY (A) September 24, 2017

Isaiah 55: 6-9; Psalm 145; Philippians 1: 20c-24, 27a; Matthew 20: 1-16

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:

 

  The 25th

Sunday in

Ordinary

Time

Most of us are all-day diligent workers aren’t we? We are pluggers, applying our energies to do the job right. "If it’s not done right, it’s not worth doing," we would say. We are not slouches. We get up early, go to work and, when necessary, stay overtime to finish what we started and then turn it in on time. Perhaps, we also work hard with the hope we’ll be noticed, singled out and given a job at a higher position – with more pay.

Most of us were baptized as infants, which means we have been at this a long time. Our coming to church today shows how seriously we take our faith. We don’t come merely because it’s a rule, or someone is checking on us, We come because we want to be here. It’s also part of our hard-working character to do things right and proper. In sum: we work hard, try to be good, come regularly to church, do our best to raise good kids and pray.

And then there is this parable to mess up our small-world, proper religion and our expectations of how we, the diligent, expect to be treated in this world and the next. We thought we knew the rules about how to succeed in the system. This parable seems to throw the cards up in the air to fall wherever. Or, to put it another way, if this parable is true, the ground beneath our feet is not as secure as we once thought.

To make matters worse the parable is not an exception to the rule. If it were, we could just skip over it. But Jesus introduces the parable by saying it depicts how things are with God and how God works. "The kingdom of heaven is like…." The parable says, in its own way, what Jesus has said throughout the whole gospel. In fact, immediately preceding today’s parable he tells his disciples, "Many who are first, shall come last, and the last shall come first" (19:30). The parable certainly illustrates what Jesus has just said but also what he has said and done from the beginning of his public ministry.

Matthew’s audience parallel the workers in the story. There were people in his community who probably went back to Jesus’ time, maybe even knew him personally – the "old timers." There were also more recent members, the Gentile converts. Was there a struggle between those who considered themselves the more authentic, more worthy community members? After all, hadn’t they been out in the hot sun longer, worked hard as disciples and struggled under persecution longer than the recently arrived, last-hour converts?

Those who first heard this parable and other ones, like the Prodigal Son, would have voiced their bewilderment. How could God not treat the hard, long-suffering workers in the vineyard better than those who didn’t seem to have done as much to gain their reward? What kind of God have we anyway!? The parable answers: our God is a generous and a just God who doesn’t play favorites, but continually invites us into the vineyard and treats us equally. Or, to put it in another way, we are all favorites. We can’t claim God owes us any special treatment. Rather, God rewards us all out on God’s generosity – "the usual daily wage." Is this an allusion to the "daily bread" God is constantly giving us – the "full day’s wage" – enough to feed and strengthen us this day, as we serve God’s people?

Doesn’t the parable suggest those of us called to work in the vineyard, at any time, are blessed when we respond to the call? Some have been at it a long time; others not so long. Still, we are in the right place, doing the right thing – responding to the call whenever and wherever we have heard it.

Isaiah poses an urgent challenge to us: we must hear and respond to God’s call. He invites all to seek God and for the wicked to turn away from evil to God, who is good. There is no wiggle room in Isaiah’s message: we are all to turn to God in worship and repentance. This reading is chosen in light of the gospel. The prophet speaks for a God whose "thoughts are not your thoughts," nor are God’s ways our ways. Isaiah’s summary statement, "As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts about your thoughts." The first reading leads us to the gospel and so we return to the parable.

What Isaiah said the gospel also teachers: God’s ways are above our ways. In fact, God’s ways can seem unfair to us considering how hard we strive to do God’s will only to discover at the end that we receive exactly the same amount; whether we are first hired, or just arrived in the vineyard. The bottom line of the parable is the generosity of the owner. He knows that all need a day’s wage to feed their families. These are daily workers; if they don’t come home with a day’s pay, their families will go without.

We are to live in the light of the parable. It is not telling us that it does not matter what we do, or how we live. Otherwise, I might be tempted to sit back, relax and only work a little when I am old, ready to receive my reward. The parable is not that crass. The God of this parable is a "full- time, all-day worker," who is always calling us to further change, always sending us to some section of the vineyard where our presence and labors are needed.

As I hear and respond to God’s call to the vineyard, I am reminded that the work is not a burden: nor am I to compare myself to how much and how long others work. We serve a wonderful, generous and loving God and our service isn’t a burden but a gift. To work a full day serving God, in whatever way we are called, is a blessing. The parable also reminds us that it is never too late to respond to God’s call. As the prophet Isaiah urges, "Seek the Lord while he may be found."

In light of the God revealed in this parable we are challenged to act towards others as God has acted towards us. God has passed judgment, paid the laborers their wages – compassion and grace. Now, we are called to do likewise, go into the vineyard and practice generosity of heart towards others, even if we do not think they have earned it.

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/092417.cfm

QUOTABLE

Seeking God

Seeking God is as good as seeing God.

Who but a saint could know so clearly

That the journey is the reality

The steps are sight,

The effort is reward,

The seeing is the searching,

The dream is the reality?

Seeking God is seeing God.

(Julian of Norwich)

JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD

If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.
Philippians 1: 22

What is your fruitful labor? For Paul, it was his missionary work and, today, Pope Francis calls the whole Church to be missionary. We cannot all be missionaries to far off countries so how can we live our lives with the missionary spirit?

At some point in a serious spiritual walk, a person realizes that they want their life to have meaning; that they want to spend their days acting with purpose and doing good. As we conclude Campaign Nonviolence NC Week, the national office of Campaign Nonviolence offers the following thoughts on what a culture of peace requires, thoughts that also capture the missionary spirit:

"Promoting a culture of peace requires honor, courage and commitment. It requires a willingness to set aside one’s own interests for the wellbeing of others. Often this means setting aside one’s own personal security, even risking one’s life, in the struggle for freedom and justice. It requires not only the courage to stand up against the oppressor, but also the honor to engage in dialogue with your opponent, refusing to return evil for evil, violence for violence. The commitment is lifelong, but possible for anyone to make, regardless of age, gender, or intelligence. Among many other things, active nonviolence requires choosing a life of simplicity and generosity, creating space for others to live up to their potential."

Living in this way is a fruitful labor of a person who possesses a missionary spirit. Pope Francis affirms us: "We who are baptized Christians are missionary disciples and we are called to become a living Gospel in the world: with a holy life we will "flavor" different environments and defend them from decay, as salt does; and we will carry the light of Christ through the witness of genuine charity" (2/9/14).

I ask you to consider taking the CNV Pledge of Nonviolence as a first step on your missionary journey:

I, ________________________, solemnly pledge to take a stand against violence and to help build a culture of active nonviolence. I will strive to practice nonviolence toward myself, practice nonviolence toward all others, and practice nonviolence toward the earth by joining the global movement to abolish war, end poverty, stop the destruction of the earth, and foster a just and peaceful world for all.

Additional info: www.paceebene.org - www.facebook.com/campaignNC 

----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Director of Social Justice Ministries

Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral

Raleigh, NC

FAITH BOOK

Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

"Are you envious because I am generous?

Reflection:

In light of the God revealed in this parable we are challenged to act towards others as God has acted towards us. God has passed judgment, paid the laborers their wages – compassion and grace. Now, we are called to do likewise, go into the vineyard and practice generosity of heart towards others, even if we do not think they have earned it.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Can we name one significant time when we received mercy from God?
  • How has that affected how we treat others, particularly those who have offended us?

POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES

"The use of the death penalty cannot really be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • James Jaynes #0206197 (On death row since 6/4/99)
  • James Morgan #0291861 (7/8/99)
  • Iziah Barden #0491889 (11/12/99)

----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/

DONATIONS

"First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at jboll@opsouth.org.

If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory 3150 Vince Hagan Drive Irving, Texas 75062-4736

Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation: http://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:

  • Individual CDs for each Liturgical Year, A, B or C
  • One combined CD for "Liturgical Years A, B and C."

If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

You can order the CDs by going to our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.

(These CDs have been updated twice in the last five years.)

2. "Homilias Dominicales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. at Jboll@opsouth.org.

3. Our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.org - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilias Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.


Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Jude Siciliano, OP - Click to send email.

St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736

frjude@judeop.org

972-438-1626


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