Reflections

TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, SEPTEMBER 20, 2020

THE PATIENT AND GENEROUS GOD
1. An Unbelievably Good God
2. God Is Grace
Greeting (cf. First Reading)
“Seek the Lord while he is still to be found,
call to him while he is still near,” says the prophet.
God himself goes out to seek you,
says the message of today.
May the Lord find you and stay always with you. R/ And also with you.

Introduction
1. An Unbelievably Good God
When you come to think of it, often we cannot understand God’s goodness. Why is he so patient with sinners? Why does he give his gifts to people who, in our opinion, do not deserve them, or waste them? But God’s ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not always our thoughts. Let us ask the Lord Jesus in this Eucharist that our thoughts and actions may become more like those of God.

2. God Is Grace
God is scandalously just and good, because God is grace. He is so good that at times we cannot understand him. Why is he so lenient with notorious sinners? We forget how lenient he is with us, sinners too. Let us open our hearts to his mercy and goodness. He gives without our asking. He gives for free. He gives more richly than we dare to expect. The first and the last receive his love. The first and the last are invited to his table. Let us join Jesus in thanksgiving.

Penitential Act
We may have questioned at times
God’s generosity and merciful love
and envied the gifts he gave to others.
Let us ask the Lord to forgive us.
(pause)

Lord Jesus, in your mercy
you keep forgiving sinners:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.

Jesus Christ, in your generosity
you keep giving rich gifts to us and to others,
knowing well that often we will not use them:
Christ, have mercy. R/ Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, in your patience
you keep inviting us to think and act
in your own inimitable ways:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.

Forgive us Lord, that all too often
we fail to understand your astonishing goodness.
Be patient with us, Lord,
and lead us to everlasting life. R/ Amen.

Opening Prayer
Let us pray to God that he may attune
our thoughts and actions to his own
(pause)
Lord our God, you say of yourself
that you are good with a love
that surpasses even justice.
Thank you for accepting the little ones as much as the great,
those who turn to you at the last hour
as well as the labourers who have toiled all their lives.
Open us more to the free gifts of your grace,
make us accept them with gratitude
and appreciate how liberally you give to others.
Turn our ways into your ways of love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

First Reading: Seek the Ways of the Lord
God is high above us, yet very close to us. We should seek him and learn to think and act in God’s ways.

1 Reading: Isaiah 55:6-9
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.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
R. (18a) The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable. R.

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works. R.

The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth. R.

Second Reading: For Me, “Life” Means Christ
For Paul, it doesn’t matter much whether he lives or dies. Alive, he serves Christ; by dying he will be with Christ. But he is willing to continue working in the service of the Gospel.

2 Reading: 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 labour 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.

Alleluia ACTS 16:14B
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Open our hearts, O Lord,
to listen to the words of your Son.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: God Is Generous to All
God’s generosity surpasses our human reasoning. He gives everybody a chance to enter his kingdom; he lets us share in his life, not because we deserve it but because he is good.

Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16A
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire labourers 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 labourers 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.”

Commentary
The Green-eyed Monster
Jealousy and envy are twins. The different with other known monozygotic twins is that jealousy and envy are born same moment. And because they are used interchangeably in the Gospel, I’ll do so with that understanding.
Jealousy, the green-eyed monster, is one of the most pervasive and destructive vices. It is not a monopoly of any group. An expatriate missionary recently told me a story that a long time ago, he arranged for some trustee prisoners to work on a construction job so as to be able to earn something to help their families. Within a few days the Governor got a phone call complaining about their being allowed to work outside the prison. It later transpired that the call was made by another prisoner who was jealous of them.
However, jealousy is especially the vice of so called ‘good and nice people.’ They do not indulge in stealing or killing or sexual misbehaviour, so they think that they are deserving of special stroking from the Lord. They become very sensitive to who is and who is not getting that stroking. A loving and sacrificing daughter is looking after her old mother. On Christmas day her mother will not eat as she waits for a phone call from another daughter who is married in the United States. The daughter caring for her mother gets madly jealous that her mother gives such importance to the other daughter who has had the best of everything in life, as she sees it, while she has sacrificed so many things to serve her mother and does not get a word of thanks. The scene is similar to the story of the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son. He is angry and jealous that his father can welcome and forgive the son who was not good like him.
There was a lady in one of the parishes in which I worked who was famous for her generosity. All was well till she heard that another Lady was equally generous! Jealousy is the issue in the Gospel today. It is jealousy which arises as a result of God’s unlimited generosity. The labourers who had worked in the vineyard from the early morning were the Israelites, the descendants of Abraham and Isaac. Those who worked for the final hour were the latecomers, the non-Jews, Nigerians and Gentiles now being accepted into the church.
The church of Matthew’s time was having a lot of trouble because the Jewish Christians found it hard to accept that the Gentiles could be promised the same rewards as they expected to get. So Matthew tells this story of God’s incredible and uncontrollable generosity. The master gives the same reward to the latest comers as he gives to those who had worked all day. This makes those who had worked longest feel very jealous and angry. The point being made is that we must not be trying to limit God’s generosity and determine who are deserving of it.
This is still a prevalent attitude. We think we deserve God’s goodness because of our goodness and our prayer. We are jealous when others who do not seem to be as good as us or to pray as much as us have good fortune. We often rejoice in hearing of the misfortunes of others who seem to be better than us. Because of our poor self-images we are ever wasting our energies in comparing ourselves with others instead of pausing to count the wonderful blessings that we have most definitely received. We are like a swimmer who is struggling to keep his head and shoulders above the water because of his fear. Of course, the wisest and less exhausting thing for him to do would be to keep as much as possible under water letting only his nose emerge to breathe from time to time.
One of the difficulties about the traditional ways of describing prayer in stages, or as mansions, is that it may cause us to be self-consciously looking at what stage we are in. If we see prayer as climbing a ladder we will be self-consciously observing where we are on the ladder. John Main used to be amused by the brochures brought out by some schools of spirituality in which they gave beginner, advanced and more advanced courses. The Spirit cannot be possessed, quantified, or measured and so the presence of the Spirit cannot be packaged for a consumer market. The remarkable thing about Christian meditation – the practice of saying prayers like the Rosary 20 to 30 minutes twice a day is that it is so simple and so difficult. It is so simple that anyone can do it and yet it is so difficult that nobody can do it, in the sense of doing it for long without distraction. Meditation is a humbling way of prayer, a way of prayer in which there is a letting go of all desires, even the desire to pray well or to possess God. As the desire to be better than others is the root of jealousy, the abandonment of desire is its antidote. Freedom from jealousy is a great freedom. It can be a release from competitiveness with the outside world and from depression within us.

Intercessions
Let us pray to God our Father whose generosity is always greater than we expect or can imagine. Let us say:
R/ Lord, your love is everlasting.

– That the fresh faith of new converts may wake up and inspire those born in Christian families, let us pray:
R/ Lord, your love is everlasting.
– That there may be more justice in our world but that justice may always be imbued with much love, let us pray:
R/ Lord, your love is everlasting.
– That Christians may contribute to our world a sense of giving out of pure generosity and goodness, and a sense of joyful celebration, let us pray:
R/ Lord, your love is everlasting.
– That in our human community everyone may be accepted as he or she is; that we may not exclude anyone from our love and that we may learn to forgive everyone, let us pray:
R/ Lord, your love is everlasting.
– That in our Christian communities we may not be jealous of each other’s gifts and talents but use ours and let others use theirs in the service of the unity and growth of all, let us pray:
R/ Lord, your love is everlasting.

Lord, we still have to learn much from you. Make us generous like you, that we may live fully and bring others to life, through Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

Prayer over the Gifts
Generous Father,
in these signs of bread and wine
you give us, weak and tired as we are,
your Son as our companion.
We open ourselves to his strength and love.
May he help us in the heat of the day
to bear the burdens of our struggles
and to seek your will in all we do.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

Introduction to the Eucharistic Prayer
Our own hands are empty as we stand before God. But he is good and loves us. He has given us his Son Jesus Christ who brought us God’s mercy. Through him we now give thanks to our Father.

Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer
We rely on the generosity of our Father in heaven
as we pray to him in the words of Jesus. R/ Our Father…

Deliver Us
Deliver us Lord, from the evil of sin
and keep us from applying to you
our human thoughts and norms.
Enlarge our hearts to the dimensions
of your own generosity without limits,
that we may prepare with hope and joy
the full coming among us
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. R/ For the kingdom…

Invitation to Communion
This is Jesus the Lord,
who gives himself freely
to the strong and the weak.
Happy are we
that he is our life and joy. R/ Lord, I am not worthy…

Prayer after Communion
Generous Father,
in this Eucharist we have experienced again
that life and all that we are
is nothing else that a gift from you.
May the challenging word of your Son
stir us to accept and serve our neighbour
as you have accepted and loved us
without any merit on our part.
And may the body of your Son
give us the courage to put his word into practice.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

Blessing
In this Eucharist we have been with Jesus.
He spoke to us,
we sat with him at table,
and if we are open to him,
he has filled us with his gifts of strength
and compassion and the power to forgive,
he has made us capable of love.
All for free.
Let us be thankful for these gifts and use them.
May almighty God bless you,
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. R/ Amen.

Let us go in peace and seek the ways of the Lord. R/ Thanks be to God.

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