Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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‘My friend, I am not cheating you.  Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  Take what is yours and go”

OPENING PRAYER

I am the Vine; you are the branches.

Remain in me and you will bear abundant fruit.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower.

He trims away every barren branch,

but the faithful ones he trims to increase their yield.

I am the Vine; you are the branches.

Remain in me and you will bear abundant fruit.

Live on in me, as I do in you.

No more than a branch can bear fruit alone,

can you bear fruit apart from me.

I am the Vine; you are the branches.

Remain in me and you will bear abundant fruit.

If you live in me, and my words live on in you,

ask what you will, it will be done for you.

Through your work, God is glorified!

I am the Vine; you are the branches.

Remain in me and you will bear abundant fruit.

I Am The Vine by The University of Notre Dame Folk Choir

COLLECT

O God, who founded all the commands of your

sacred Law

upon love of you and of our neighbor,

grant that, by keeping your precepts,

we may merit to attain eternal life.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Is 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.

APPLICATION

There are (and there always have been) intelligent people in our world who, because of the transcendence and infinity of God, cannot imagine him as a true friend of mortal man, a Father who takes a personal interest in man’s spiritual and temporal concerns. For them, therefore, the idea of man praying to God is utter folly. The trouble with such people is that because of their preconceived idea of God’s infinity and transcendence they cannot admit that he has revealed himself to us.

Through the revelation he gave to the Patriarchs and prophets God has told us many things we need to know about himself and about our purpose in life. He has also sent his divine Son as man to prove to us the interest, love and mercy he has in abundance for us all. Yes, God is infinite, supreme and away beyond any idea we can form of him. The important concept of himself which revelation and the Incarnation impress on our minds is that he is at the same time a loving Father who wants to share his eternal happiness with his adopted children, all mankind.

He is transcendent and infinite in his nature, but in his relations with us he is a father and the truest friend we could ever have. If the Jews knew this before the Incarnation (today’s exhortation of the prophet shows that they did) how much more clearly and more convincingly is it not known to us, after Christ’s coming on earth. “He did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all” (Rom. 8: 32). Can any Christian have the slightest doubt of God’s personal interest in him? We may not always understand God’s ways of acting and be tempted to ask: “Why should the innocent suffer, why should cruel tyrants live and prosper, why should the father or mother of a young family die? and so on. Our faith and our conviction that as a loving Father God is ever acting for our good, should allay these doubts.

God is ever near us then in this life, and if we remain near to him while on this earth we can trust in his love and goodness to keep us near him forever in heaven.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18

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.

The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

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.

The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

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.

The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

READING II

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Phil 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.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

CCC 1005 To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must “be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”1 In that “departure” which is death the soul is separated from the body.2 It will be reunited with the body on the day of resurrection of the dead.3

CCC 1010 Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”4 “The saying is sure: if we have died with him, we will also live with him.”5 What is essentially new about Christian death is this: through Baptism, the Christian has already “died with Christ” sacramentally, in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ’s grace, physical death completes this “dying with Christ” and so completes our incorporation into him in his redeeming act:
It is better for me to die in (
eis) Christ Jesus than to reign over the ends of the earth. Him it is I seek – who died for us. Him it is I desire – who rose for us. I am on the point of giving birth. .. Let me receive pure light; when I shall have arrived there, then shall I be a man.6

CCC 1011 In death, God calls man to himself. Therefore the Christian can experience a desire for death like St. Paul’s: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ. ”7 He can transform his own death into an act of obedience and love towards the Father, after the example of Christ:8
My earthly desire has been crucified;. .. there is living water in me, water that murmurs and says within me: Come to the Father.9
I want to see God and, in order to see him, I must die.10
I am not dying; I am entering life.11

CCC 1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.12 The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul–a destiny which can be different for some and for others.13

CCC 1025 To live in heaven is “to be with Christ.” The elect live “in Christ,”14 but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.15
For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.16

CCC 1692 The Symbol of the faith confesses the greatness of God’s gifts to man in his work of creation, and even more in redemption and sanctification. What faith confesses, the sacraments communicate: by the sacraments of rebirth, Christians have become “children of God,”17 “partakers of the divine nature.”18 Coming to see in the faith their new dignity, Christians are called to lead henceforth a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ.”19 They are made capable of doing so by the grace of Christ and the gifts of his Spirit, which they receive through the sacraments and through prayer.

CCC 1698 The first and last point of reference of this catechesis will always be Jesus Christ himself, who is “the way, and the truth, and the life.”20 It is by looking to him in faith that Christ’s faithful can hope that he himself fulfills his promises in them, and that, by loving him with the same love with which he has loved them, they may perform works in keeping with their dignity:
I ask you to consider that our Lord Jesus Christ is your true head, and that you are one of his members. He belongs to you as the head belongs to its members; all that is his is yours: his spirit, his heart, his body and soul, and all his faculties. You must make use of all these as of your own, to serve, praise, love, and glorify God. You belong to him, as members belong to their head. And so he longs for you to use all that is in you, as if it were his own, for the service and glory of the Father.21
For to me, to live is Christ.22

1 2 Cor 5:8.
2 Cf. Phil 1:23.
3 Cf. Paul VI, CPG § 28.
4 Phil 1:21.
5 2 Tim 2:11.
6 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom.,6,1-2:Apostolic Fathers,II/2,217-220.
7 Phil 1:23.
8 Cf. Lk 23:46.
9 St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom.,6,1-2:Apostolic Fathers,II/2,223-224.
10 St. Teresa of Avila, Life, chap. 1.
11 St. Therese of Lisieux, The Last Conversations.
12 Cf. 2 Tim 1:9-10.
13 Cf. Lk 16:22; 23:43; Mt 16:26; 2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:23; Heb 9:27; 12:23.
14 Phil 1:23; cf. Jn 14:3; 1 Thess 4:17.
15 Cf. Rev 2:17.
16 St. Ambrose, In Luc., 10, 121: PL 15, 1834A.
17 Jn 1:12; 1 Jn 3:1.
18 2 Pet 1:4.
19 Phil 1:27.
20 Jn 14:6.
21 St. John Eudes, Tract. de admirabili corde Jesu, 1, 5.
22 Phil 1:21.

APPLICATION

The Church has chosen these verses of St. Paul to remind us that as Christians our whole life and our very death must be for Christ and in Christ. St. Paul’s life, which was so completely dedicated to Christ, is set before us as a model–a model, however, which most of us ran only imitate from afar. While we are not asked to give up home and family and go among the pagans to bring Christ to them, we are expected to live our Christian lives daily in the love and grace of God and Christ.

This, of course, is not as easy as it sounds. This world and its attractions are very close to us. We are hemmed in by worldly interests and cares. We seem to have little time for thinking and planning for the world to come, or for the things of God. Yet, Paul’s life was a very busy one too. He had to eat and sleep and by the work of his hands provide for his bodily upkeep. He had worries in plenty–worries and cares for his newly-converted, worries caused by enemies who tried hard to impede the spread of the gospel. He had trials and sufferings, including scourgings and stonings and two or three jail-terms.

This surely was no life of leisure. From 39 A.D., the year of his conversion, to 69 A.D.–thirty years, Paul labored incessantly to make Christ and his message known to all men. He established Christian communities in most of the principal centers of Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece. He did much to spread and build up the Church in Rome, and, between his release from his Roman imprisonment (620 A.D.) and his death in 69, probably went as far as Spain. He was especially successful among the pagan peoples and has been called the Apostle of the Gentiles because of this.

St. Paul is, therefore, our model in a special way. It was through him that the faith reached our Gentile ancestors and eventually came to us. The best way we could thank him, the way that would give him greatest joy, would be to try to love Christ and to live every day of our lives for Christ. This will not mean that we must spend all day long on our knees or in Church; it will mean faithfully fulfilling the duties of our vocation in life out of love for God and Christ.

Paul’s vocation in life was to preach the gospel, the good news of salvation, to as many as possible. Our duty is to live according to that gospel and thus earn the eternal salvation put within our reach by the Incarnation. If we do this faithfully by living in peace and charity, loving God and neighbor, we too are missionaries, for our good example will move many to imitate us. “Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ,” St. Paul said to the Philippians. This exhortation is repeated to us in today’s reading. It is by our daily manner of living we prove that we appreciate what Christianity means to us; it is by carrying out our daily tasks for the honor and glory of God, that we can show we are worthy of the divine gift of the faith which Christ has given to us through his great apostle St. Paul.

GOSPEL

True Vine.jpg

Mt 20:1-16a

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.”

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

APPLICATION

The call to the vineyard (to the Church), through God’s gift of faith and the sacrament of baptism, is a gift for which we can never sufficiently thank God. If we remain in the vineyard and labor honestly, that is, if we cooperate with the actual graces God is continually giving us, we are assured of reaching heaven when our earthly days are ended. The work we have to do in God’s vineyard is the fulfilling of the duties of our state in life. By carrying out these duties faithfully and honestly we are doing the will of God and earning heaven. The greater part of our day and indeed of our life, will be taken up with tasks of themselves worldly, but these tasks when done in the state of grace and with the intention of honoring God, have a supernatural value. For this we have to thank God for his goodness and generosity.

He could have made the attainment of heaven so much more difficult. He could have demanded extraordinary mortifications and renunciations and the reward (heaven) would still be exceedingly great. Instead he allows us to live our everyday life, to enjoy the love and friendship of our family and friends, to satisfy the natural desires of our bodies, within the commandments, and yet to merit a supernatural reward while so doing. As he tells us through St. Paul: “whether you eat or drink or whatever else you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor.10:31).

Looking back on our past life, how many years have we really given to God since we came to the use of reason? Those school years, the time spent learning a trade or profession, the weeks, months, years working in an office or factory or farm, the hours among the pots and pans in the kitchen–have we earned some credit in heaven for all of this, or is it all crossed off our pay-sheet through lack of right intention or through sin?

If so, those years are lost to us. We were “idle” all that time. Today’s parable, however, should give us new hope and courage. It may be the sixth or the ninth or even the eleventh hour of our life but we can still earn heaven if we listen to God’s call and set to work diligently in his vineyard. If we put our conscience right with God today and resolve to be loyal to him from now on he will be as generous to us, as the parable promises.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

God Descends

God loves his creature, man; he even loves him in his fall and does not leave him to himself. He loves him to the end. He is impelled with his love to the very end, to the extreme: he came down from his divine glory. He came down to the extreme lowliness of our fall. He kneels before us and carries out for us the service of a slave: he washes our dirty feet so that we might be admitted to God’s banquet and be made worthy to take our place at his. God is not a remote God, too distant or too great to be bothered with our trifles. Since God is great, he can also be concerned with small things. Since he is great, the soul of man, the same man, created through eternal love, is not a small thing but great, and worthy of God’s love. God’s holiness is not merely an incandescent power before which we are obliged to withdraw, terrified. It is a power of love and therefore a purifying and healing power. God descends and becomes a slave. In this, the entire mystery of Jesus Christ is expressed. In this, what redemption means becomes visible. The basin in which he washes us is his love, ready to face death. Only love has that purifying power which washes the grime from us and elevates us to God’s heights. The basin that purifies us is God himself, who gives himself to us without reserve – to the very depths of his suffering and his death. He is continually on his knees at our feet and carries out for us the service of a slave, the service of purification, making us capable of God. His love is inexhaustible, it truly goes to the very end.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Prayer of Thanksgiving

God of all blessings,

source of all life,

giver of all grace:

We thank you for the gift of life:

for the breath

that sustains life,

for the food of this earth

that nurtures life,

for the love of family and friends

without which there would be no life.

We thank you for the mystery of creation:

for the beauty

that the eye can see,

for the joy

that the ear may hear,

for the unknown

that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,

for the expanse of space

that draws us beyond the definitions of our selves.

We thank you for setting us in communities:

for families

who nurture our becoming,

for friends

who love us by choice,

for companions at work,

who share our burdens and daily tasks,

for strangers

who welcome us into their midst,

for people from other lands

who call us to grow in understanding,

for children

who lighten our moments with delight,

for the unborn,

who offer us hope for the future.

We thank you for this day:

for life

and one more day to love,

for opportunity

and one more day to work for justice and peace,

for neighbors

and one more person to love

and by whom be loved,

for your grace

and one more experience of your presence,

for your promise:

to be with us,

to be our God,

and to give salvation.

For these, and all blessings,

we give you thanks, eternal, loving God,

through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen!

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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