20th Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Ezk 34:1-11
The word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, in these words prophesy to them to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered for the lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered and wandered over all the mountains and high hills; my sheep were scattered over the whole earth, with no one to look after them or to search for them. Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; because my shepherds did not look after my sheep, but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep; because of this, shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD: I swear I am coming against these shepherds. I will claim my sheep from them and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep so that they may no longer pasture themselves. I will save my sheep, that they may no longer be food for their mouths. For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
Gospel: Mt 20:1-16
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, he 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, he 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.”
THE LAST WILL BE THE FIRST, AND THE FIRST WILL BE LAST: In the Palestinian set up the slaves and hired servants who belong to a household had the security of membership in a household unit, but agricultural labourers working had nothing of the sort. The reality that the labourers were seeking for job till the eleventh hour, i.e., demonstrate that unemployment was rampant. The owner of the vineyard, in the parable, did not have much difficulty to hire labourers for his vineyard. He goes out different moments of time to hire labourers and negotiates with them on the daily wage. At the end, everybody gets the same wage. The complaint is because that the first group was not treated fairly. The justice of God is different from the conception of justice by the human persons. Man sees the deeds but God sees the needs.
Prayer: Lord open my eyes and mind so that I may appreciate your just deeds.
FREE GIFT TO SERVE: Leadership is about serving others and it happens at many levels and dynamics. If God has given you a gift and you are already using it to bless other people, that is leadership. It works hand in hand with a God given purpose and not for individual interest. Our callings are different and we may realize them at different times in life but God is the one who rewards us all. Our role should be to do that which we have been called for, faithfully advancing the Kingdom agenda. What we should do is to create a shade like that of a huge tree, so that others may come and take refuge in it. Always let us endeavour to serve God by serving others without fighting who is benefiting more.
FATHER OF LOVE: When the Lord decided to deliver the people from the hands of Pharaoh, he conveyed to Moses that they were his own people and he heard their cry (Ex 3:6). It was then Moses was sent as the emissary of God. That’s why Moses openly demanded that the people were to be permitted to worship their God who intends to free them from their perennial suffering. Therefore, the Jews always considered themselves a chosen race of God. But they failed to realize that they were not living up to his expectation. God told them that they will continue to be his favorites provided they obey by his commandments. That’s why the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes of his time claimed that they were the rightful sons of the Father. But in today’s gospel Jesus introduces himself who has equal consideration for everyone. He is a Father who is magnanimous in showing his compassions and mercy to all his people.