Lector's Notes
by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

Proclaiming It: First, note that there are two voices speaking in succession. The prophet utters the first two sentences. If the historical and theological assertions above are correct, the prophet’s audience must have thought his message too good to be true. So he must have spoken emphatically and persuasively. Imitate him. But the last two sentences are the very words of the Lord. As a mortal speaking them, you should sound awed. That’s a different tone of voice than the one recommended for the prophet’s words. If you let the words awe you in quiet prayer over them, you may sound so..

Second Reading

Proclaiming It: Study the text carefully so you know his reasons for preferring death and for preferring life. Know which sentences come down on which side of the debate. When you read this to the congregation, try to make his anguish apparent in your voice.

Intro to Readings
by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

Isaiah speaks two sentences of his own words, followed by two sentences of God’s own words. For a discouraged people who did not believe they could be forgiven and enjoy renewal, God has a contradictory message.

Second Reading

Writing to a mature community of his good friends, Saint Paul ponders whether he should welcome death. For an interesting reason, he decides “Not yet.”

Gospel

Jesus tells another parable that defies what we would call common sense, because he is speaking about God’s ways.

Word-Sunday.com

by Larry Broding

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FIRST READING

My ways are not your ways

How is our God the God of all? How do you balance a belief in a loving, compassionate God vs. the notion of a moral Church? How do we maintain the purity of the Church, while welcoming back sinners?

PSALM

Style and substance

When was the last time you were impressed by the look of a building or star or media production? Did the look impress you more than the content? Why or why not?

SECOND READING

The choice between now and eternity

Do you ever wonder what heaven will be like? Do you sometimes wonder if life after death will be better than the life you have now? Explain. Did Paul have a death wish?

GOSPEL

Justice in the kingdom

What is the difference between fairness and justice? When has the need for charity required you to set aside your desires for the needs of others? When have you set aside your fair share for the good of others?
INTROFIRSTPSALMSECONDGOSPELCHURCH FATHERS
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First Reading

"As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts." — Isaiah 55:9

God is not answerable to our agenda, not circumscribed by our dogma, not limited to our language. When Isaiah quotes God as saying, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways,” the intent is not to denigrate human wisdom or to say that inspiration is impossible. The point is the very simple and hard to accept fact that we are not God..—Sr. Mary

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Responsorial Psalm

"The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth." — Psalm 145:18

St. John Chrysostom wrote: “Devotion to praise is a mark of the truly filial heart.  He who praises the Lord every day will praise him for the eternal Day” (Expositio in Psalmos, 144.2). —Quoted by Michal Hunt

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Second Reading

For if we live, we live for the Lord,, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. — Romans 14:8

The positive side of “living in the flesh” (his life in this world) was that Paul could continue to serve the Lord by spreading His Gospel of salvation, and yet the thought of going to be with Christ was very appealing to him.—Michal Hunt

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Gospel

"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.’"— Matthew 20:6-7

The owner who kept going out must have understood that, with each successive trip, he was apt to find less and less desirable workers. His dawn-hires were probably the men who appeared to be the strongest, the ones who got up extra early and could well have been hired by others, if not by him. As the day wore on, the workers still waiting were the consistently unchosen.—Sr. Mary

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"As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts." — Isaiah 55:9

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First Reading

Isaiah 55:6-9

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

A call to conversion

FIRST READING—This reading, issued to the Israelite exiles in Babylon, is a call to worship, a call to conversion, and a call to believe in God’s ways. It begins with an exhortation to “seek the Lord, while he may be found…and while he is still near.” We can assume that the author does not literally believe that God is moving soon to a distant place where he cannot be found. God can always be found and he is always near, but our dulled hearts may not recognize his presence. Perhaps the writer is saying, “Seek God while you have some spiritual sense in you. Seek him before you lose all belief in him.”

The writer issues a call to the sinner to turn from his sinful ways. The reading concludes with a reference to God’s mysterious ways. In general, this verse is a reminder to us that we do not understand the ways of God in our lives or world. But in the context of today’s Gospel, where a latecomer receives the same wages as the one who has worked all day, the saying is probably a reference to God’s great mercy. Despite the fact that we may have been huge sinners and have spent most of our lives in a state of indifference to God, he will have mercy on us if we turn from our sinful ways. This way of acting is probably unlike how we would behave if we were God.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

Seek the Lord

FIRST READING—The brief extract from the prophet Isaiah is from a beautiful poem celebrating the call to live a graced life. It is one of the most familiar of the poems of Isaiah. “Come to the water…”

We are called to seek the Lord. To be active in our desire to know what God calls us to. However we are warned, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways.” says the Lord.

We do not now the mind of God except in a very general way. In fact we need to be wary of those who claim to know the mind of God.

There are those who believe that they can do violence to others in the name of God. This violence isn’t always physical; a lot of damage is done by people who try to curb the freedom of others. There are some aspects of the vision of God that we can be fairly sure of, that violence is evil, or that we are to be guardians of the planet.

After a period of prayer and discernment I may feel peaceful about a decision I have made, or after a crisis I may be able to go forward, trusting in God but I cannot tell another person what is the will of God for them.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

God is near and rich in forgiveness

FIRST READING—A disciple of the great Isaiah of Jerusalem had accompanied his people into exile in Babylon and was writing a worthy supplement to the original Book of Isaiah (Chapters 1-39). This portion of the Book (Chapters 40-55) we attribute to the Second-Isaiah. It is a book of consolation and of hope. As the Exile is about to come to an end, the message is one of promise for the return and restoration of Israel. At the beginning of the Exile, God is present to his people as a chastisement for their sins of infidelity to the Covenant; now, at the end, God is present to them as hope and salvation. God is even at work on their behalf in allowing another pagan leader, Cyrus of Persia, to become their messiah, so to speak, when he decrees that they should return to Jerusalem. How strange are the ways of God!

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Seek the Lord while he may be found!

FIRST READING—Scholars look at Chapter 55 as the hinge between the second and third major divisions of the Book of Isaiah. It reaches back into what has gone before and introduces the final section. The introduction (Isaiah 55:1-5), is the wide-open invitation to enjoy the fruits of wisdom, God’s free offering to any who are hungry and thirsty for the life God offers. That invitation is followed by a short section far more imperative in tone.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found!” At least in part, this is a reminder that no matter how beautiful the temples and tabernacles we build, we can’t domesticate God. God will not be confined to a place to which we may go, just because we decide we want divine counsel or help ready at hand. The God of Israel, the God of Jesus, decides when and where, how and to whom to be present. Human attempts to circumscribe God’s presence are the gateway to idolatry, the worship of a god created in our imagination. Thus, Isaiah warns us: “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near.” God’s people are made to be seekers, not trappers.

The second part of this reading carries that idea forward, underlining the fact that we always need to seek the ways of God rather than assume we know them. “My thoughts are not your thoughts…” God is not answerable to our agenda, not circumscribed by our dogma, not limited to our language. When Isaiah quotes God as saying, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways,” the intent is not to denigrate human wisdom or to say that inspiration is impossible. The point is the very simple and hard to accept fact that we are not God.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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An invitation to Grace

One of God’s many attributes is His generosity.  He is unlimited in His acts that demonstrate His compassion, love, and mercy.  In the time of the prophet Isaiah (8th century BC), the children of Israel began to take God’s works on their behalf for granted and failed to be grateful for His many blessings.  As a result, they did not produce the “good fruit” of righteousness, and in judgment for their wickedness, God punished His people for their sins.  And yet, as Isaiah told the people in our First Reading, God is always ready to forgive the repentant sinner and to show His mercy.  God is not like human beings who harbor resentment and fail to forgive past wrongs.  God’s salvation is freely extended to His covenant people and to people of all nations who seek a relationship with Him, for He is both generous and merciful.

Exploring the Text

God's gift to Israel

God freed the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt and planted them like a “cherished vine” in His “vineyard” that was the Promised Land of Canaan (Is 5:70).  He nurtured Israel with abundant blessings, preparing His covenant people to bear the “good fruit” of righteousness that would be a sign to the Gentile nations.  However, Israel took God’s gifts for granted, and in their ingratitude, they failed to produce the “good fruit” of righteous deeds that would be a sign of God’s grace to the other nations of the earth (Is 5:2b-7).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
God's redemptive justice

n a redemptive judgment meant to call His people to repentance, God allowed conquerors to overrun His “vineyard” (Is 5:8-30).  Our reading is Isaiah’s appeal to the people of Israel to repent their sins, return to God, and to receive His grace and mercy again.  God is not like human beings who harbor resentment and fail to forgive past wrongs (Is 5:6-8).  God freely extends His gift of grace to the people of all nations who seek Him, for He is both generous and merciful (Is 5:9).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
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"The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth." — Psalm 145:18

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Responsorial Psalm

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

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The Lord is near to all who call upon him

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—This is a psalm of praise to God for his mercy.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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The generosity and mercy of God

The Responsorial Psalm tells us that our loving God is near to everyone who calls upon Him.  The Lord hears the prayers and petitions of all who come to Him, not because they have worked to deserve it, but because God is merciful.  Our response should be to offer God our praise in thanksgiving for His generosity in intervening in our lives, even when we cannot recognize how He is meeting our needs.  St. John Chrysostom wrote: “Devotion to praise is a mark of the truly filial heart.  He who praises the Lord every day will praise him for the eternal Day” (Expositio in Psalmos, 144.2).

Exploring the Text

Overview of the psalm

The title of Psalm 145 is Praise of David.  It is an acrostic psalm, one of the alphabetical psalms constructed by using a letter of the Hebrew alphabet to begin each verse.  In this poem attributed to David, he commits himself to praising the name of his Lord and being grateful for God’s blessings every day (verses 1-2).  St. John Chrysostom wrote: “Devotion to praise is a mark of the truly filial heart.  He who praises the Lord every day will praise him for the eternal Day” (Expositio in Psalmos, 144.2).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The attributes of God

In verses 8-9 and 17, he enumerates God’s attributes, quoting from Exodus 34:6-7, which refers to Yahweh as the God of the Covenant with Israel, and the goodness He extends to all.  The attributes listed are:

  1. Grace
  2. Mercy
  3. Slow to anger
  4. Great kindness
  5. Goodness
  6. Compassion
  7. Just
  8. Holy

That God hears those who call upon Him in sincerity and responds with kindness and salvation to all who love Him and invoke His Holy Name is evidence of these attributes (verse 18).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
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For if we live, we live for the Lord,, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. — Romans 14:8

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Second Reading

Philippians 1:20C-24, 27A

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The bottom line

For this and the next three Sundays, the second reading is taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. This is an amazing reading. Paul is writing from prison and is not sure whether he will get out alive. But it does not matter because for him, “life is Christ and death is gain.” If he gets out of prison, that’s okay too; it will give him another opportunity to preach the Gospel. The bottom line for Paul is to serve Christ and his Gospel. He urges his readers to have the same attitude.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

No 2nd reading reflection this week

SECOND READING—

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

For me to live is Christ

SECOND READING—Paul sent at least three pieces of correspondence to the community he had established at Philippi, his first base of operations on the European continent. These three letters have been reedited and merged into one: The Letter of Paul to the Philippians. The beginning of the Letter, as we know it today, is really from the second piece of correspondence (1:1 -3:1a). Epaphroditus had brought Paul a gift of money from the community at Philippi, and Paul had written to them (4:10-20). This same Epaphroditus has been very sick, is now recovering, and will return to Philippi, bringing this correspondence from Paul. In it, Paul sends a message of encouragement to this community.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Paul’s one single purpose pulled him in two directions

SECOND READING—Paul wrote the Letter to the Philippians while he was imprisoned, sometime between the years 57 and 63 C.E. (Scholarly opinion puts Paul’s death around the year 67.) In Philippians, Paul reveals his personal feelings about his own life and about his love for the members of his community. Underlying it all, Paul wants to convey his complete trust in Christ and the joy he knows because of that faith.

When he first refers to his imprisonment, Paul explains that his misfortune has turned out as an advantage for the Gospel. His willing suffering has engendered courage in others who continue to preach (Philippians 1:12-14). Paul is concerned that the Philippians have allowed his situation to discourage or intimidate them. Thus, in the opening section of this letter, he makes every effort to encourage them, to entice them into sharing the joy he experiences even in, or perhaps even because of, his dire circumstances. Paul’s way of approaching his unknown future is the context through which to understand the selection we hear today.

When we are privileged to hear the reflections of someone facing death we get a glimpse of what life itself means to them as well as what they believe about their future beyond the grave. The first thing Paul says in this regard is, “For to me life is Christ.” Life in Christ, or Christ’s life in him, is a reality that Paul has discovered and cultivated ever since he met Christ on the road to Damascus.

With his conversion and the impassioned preaching life that followed it, Paul came to have but one single purpose in life, yet, it pulled him in two directions. We might say that Paul was both a mystic and a missionary. From the mystical point of view, he was convinced that death is gain. Death would bring him into a new, unfettered union with Christ. That was the goal of his life and longing.

On the other hand, empowered by Christ’s life within him, he was inexhaustibly and persistently missionary. There seemed to be nothing more satisfying to him than spending himself in preaching the Gospel — no matter what the circumstances.

As Paul works through explaining this to the Philippian community, we see him weighing the possibilities and coming to what a Jesuit might call Ignatian indifference. In this process, we get a glimpse of one set of concrete circumstances that grounded his conviction that “all things work for good for those who love God” (Romans 8:28). To live was to increase the awareness of Christ in the world; to die was to experience the fullness of union for which he longed and toward which every activity of his life was aimed.

Today’s selection from Philippians is inspiring. If we are willing to go beyond admiration for Paul and his zeal, it invites us to reflect on our lives as he did on his. Consider how we might fill in the blanks if we had a paper in front of us that read: “For me to live is ____ and death is ____.” Paul had risked his life for the mission, so the answer may have been pretty clear to him. Our own responses will help us see how the circumstances of our lives lead us to God and to reflect on where it is we want to go.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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Christian conduct

In the Second Reading, St. Paul wrote that we must conduct ourselves in a manner that is worthy of Christ. Paul testified that he would remain faithful to Christ no matter what the circumstances of his life. Paul bravely professed that he would honor God whether he lives and continues his apostolic work of spreading the Gospel of salvation in a life that belongs to Christ through his Christian baptism, or if he is martyred and can bear his witness of Christ in his death.

Exploring the Text

Intro to Christian community at Philippi

Our Second Reading is from St. Paul’s letter to the Christian community at Philippi in Macedonia (northern Greece).  The city was on the border with Thrace on the Via Egnatia, the Roman road that ran east to west through those two regions.  The church of Philippi was the first Christian community founded by St. Paul when he traveled to Europe during his second missionary journey in AD 50 or 51.  Acts of Apostles give a detailed account of his visit to the city (Acts 16:12-40).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Paul magnification of Christ

20b Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

St. Paul writes that he will honor Christ in his body whether he lives and continues his apostolic work of spreading the Gospel of salvation in a life that belongs to Christ through his Christian baptism, or whether he is martyred and bears his witness of Christ in his death.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Life or death?

21 For to me, life is Christ, and death is gain.  23 I am caught between the two.  I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Paul considers death a “gain” because, for a Christian who dies in the grace of God, it means entering into the joy of the Resurrected Christ and seeing Him face to face in glory (1 Cor 13:12).  Paul says he longs to be united to Christ in glory in His heavenly kingdom, “for that is far better” than living in a world full of sin and strife.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Positive side of living

22 If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.  And I do not know which I shall choose.

The positive side of  “living in the flesh” (his life in this world) was that Paul could continue to serve the Lord by spreading His Gospel of salvation, and yet the thought of going to be with Christ was very appealing to him.

24 Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.  27 Only conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ.

However, Paul writes, because he still has work to do in their community, it is better for their sakes that he remains with them rather than going to be with his Lord.  His only request is that they demonstrate the fruits of his labors by their righteous Christian conduct that is in itself a witness for Jesus Christ.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): St. John Paul II — seen here in his final public appearance three days before he died — showed us true dignity as he faced death in 2005. CNS Photo : Knowing-Jesus.com “Health is without doubt an important value, but it does not determine the value of a person,” said Pope Francis in a powerful message to the Pontifical Academy for Life in 2014. “Furthermore, health is not by itself a guarantee of happiness, which may indeed be experienced even by those in a precarious state of health.” Therefore, he said, “poor health and disability are never a good reason to exclude or, worse, eliminate a person; and the most serious deprivation that the elderly suffer is not the weakening of the body or the consequent disability, but rather abandonment, exclusion, and a lack of love.” Quoted in The misguided 'mercy" of euthanasia by Fr. Thomas Rosica RELATED: Remembering Pope John Paul II: His life in photos
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"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.’"— Matthew 20:6-7

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Gospel Reading

Matthew 20:1-16A

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Working in the Lord’s vineyard

GOSPEL—This Gospel is perhaps one of the most puzzling and disliked parables in the Bible because of its perceived grave injustice. Some scholars say that the parable is told as a response to a question Peter raised on behalf of his fellow apostles: What reward would they receive for giving up everything to work in the Lord’s vineyard?

In this parable, no one is lazy. The men are standing around only because no one has hired them. But once hired, they go to work and are paid the agreedwage at the end of the day. However, their sense of justice is upset when those hired later in the day receive the same amount. They object to the fact that the late workers are getting more than they should be paid. In truth, however, the landowner has not been unfair to the all-day workers, having paid them the agreedwage. Rather, he decides to be very generous to the latecomers; hence, the second to the last verse of today’s Gospel: “Are you envious because I am generous?” Envy on the part of Jesus’ followers is unwarranted since every gift of God completely comes from his generosity, and not from any individual’s ability or activity. God’s justice looks more like human mercy.

The parable has two other applications: one to Matthew’s community living several decades after Christ, and to us living 2,000 years later.

In regards to Matthew’s community made up of mostly Jewish Christians and some Gentile Christians, the farmer may have looked upon the Gentiles as the workers going out late in the day and receiving the same wages or in their same spiritual blessings as the Jews who have been faithful to God all their lives. In this case, the Jewish Christians may have erroneously believed that one earned salvation by good works. Salvation is a gift and not something we earn.

For us, the issue might be death-bed conversions like the good thief whom some, maybe many, believed ‘stole heaven.’ We do not earn heaven by good works but, rather, by opening our hearts to God’s saving grace. Whether we have served him from sunrise to sunset or enlisted for service only at the eleventh hour, God blesses us with his bounty not because we have earned his goodness, but because of who he is, namely, a God of mercy and compassion.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

The good employer

GOSPEL—In the Gospel today, Jesus tells a story which reverses the expectations we have about worth. Today a lot of people are concerned about their jobs and their security. People working together keep an eye out for what others are earning. We expect to be paid according to what we do.

This story could be called The Good Employer. It falls into two scenes. The first part describes the way in which the workers are hired. We don’t know why the farmer didn’t take on a full staff in the morning but just that at different times during the day.

The second scene is set at evening when the wages were being paid. Each worker had been contracted for a day’s wage. The wage clerk beginning with the last began the pay out. According to justice they should have received a fraction of the wage according to the number of hours worked. To their surprise and delight they got the full amount. As the pay line got shorter the expectations of the first in the field rose. They saw a bonus coming up. However when their turn come they received the same amount. The workers became very critical of the employer. In fact they accused him of being unfair.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the story. It starts, “The kingdom of God is like…” This story is told to help us understand how kingdom people live.

Discipleship is a gift. We don’t earn it.
Discipleship is not bestowed because of talent or long service.
Discipleship gives us no claims on God.

We can’t say “I’ve given the best years of my life to God, God owes me.” We can’t even claim to have a special call. If the Scripture tells us anything it is that God can use people from a variety of backgrounds, races, the talented, the untalented to act on God’s behalf. All this is required is an openness to the movement of the Spirit acting in the world for peace and justice.

Moses thought that his stutter would disqualify him in any debate with the powerful. God didn’t think so. Zacchaeus thought that being dodgy in his dealing with people would disqualify him. Jesus didn’t think so. The Syro-Phoenician woman argued the point with Jesus to get him to listen. Jesus listened and the girl was cured.

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways.” We can say, “Thank God.” In this story the qualities of mercy and justice are finely balanced. The employer treated the early workers justly and to the latecomers he showed mercy and compassion.

This parable is for us who follow Jesus. Do I believe that church goers are worth more than non church goers? Do I believe that heterosexual people are worth more than homosexual people? Do I believe that married people are worth more than divorced people? Do I believe that Catholics are worth more than Muslims? Do I think that I can decide who is beyond the love of God?

“Seek the Lord where he is to be found” not where we think God should be found.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permision.

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Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau's Reflection

God is generous beyond measure

GOSPEL—Only in Matthew is this parable of Jesus reported. Most likely, his Church community was experiencing a very particular need which this parable could address. It is interesting to speculate on what the situation was for which Matthew felt the need to include this teaching.

The parable operates on at least three levels: (1) Jesus wants to teach his disciples that sinners and tax collectors must not be excluded from God’s blessings which he has come to bring. It may not seem fair to those who have worked so hard to observe all the minute details of the Law of Moses. These alienated people are only now being invited and are responding. They will share in the same promises and blessings asthose who have been faithful all along. (2) When Matthew’s community heard this parable, they spontaneously thought of the Gentiles who were now coming to faith in Jesus and to salvation originally promised through the Jews. The repeated messages of the prophets down through the centuries had not been addressed to them specifically. Now, the Gentiles are being given equal standing in the Church community and in the kingdom of God. (3) Now and for ages to come, all who are disciples of Jesus must not look upon the kingdom to which they have access as a matter of reward to be given to those who work hard. Everlasting life is God’s pure gift, not earned, just given freely by God to whomever God wishes.

In the sophisticated and complex world in which we live, it is hard for us to conceive of a vineyard owner or manager coming out several times during the work day to hire new workers. But in the Middle Eastern world, grapes are still harvested in a very brief and intensive ‘window of opportunity,’ very late inthe growing season, just before the rainy season begins in the fall. When the rain clouds begin to gather, the farm managers go for more help than they had originally thought necessary. If it rains tonight, all that is not yet harvested will be lost. Last-minute, short-term workers are urgently needed. The amount of work done is not the point; the need of the farmer is.

God seems to be fond of reversing the values which we consider to be so very important: afull wage for a full day’s work. That is very crucial to our understanding of labor –management relations. Even children feel they should be paid an allowance based on how much work they do in the family. Jesus, however, proclaims that the first shall be last and the last first. That is patently unfair! But, we are not at all dealing here with pay for work done. We are hearing about God’s absolutely spontaneous and free gift of love, for everyone! There is no earning and rewarding here at all.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

God’s justice is far above us

GOSPEL—Did it ever occur to you that the vineyard owner in this parable could have saved a lot of hard feelings had he simply paid the longest-working laborers first? After 12 hours of toil, they probably wouldn’t have hung around to see what the others were going to get paid. But, then Jesus wouldn’t have had a maddening story. So, we should probably ask what he wanted to teach us.

This parable followed on Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man who wanted to gain eternal life, but couldn’t bring himself to give away his wealth in order to do so. One wonders if that sad man ever figured out that the only way to the kingdom of heaven was to care at least as much about others as he did about himself (Matthew 19:16-30).

Right after the incident with that man, Jesus told this story about how things are in the kingdom of heaven and how God can be compared to a wealthy landowner. The setup leads us to two questions: “What kind of a landowner is God, and who would be happy to work in his vineyard?”

The landowner Jesus depicts is persistent. He himself goes out at dawn to find people who need the work he has to offer. He returns to the labor market four more times. It seems, as if, the primary focus of his day is on finding workers: he goes looking before and after breakfast, before and after lunch, and finally just before supper time. Finding his workers seemed to be more important than eating! By early afternoon, any observer would have been catching on to the fact that this master had a great deal more interest in employing the people than in the amount of work they could accomplish.

The owner who kept going out must have understood that, with each successive trip, he was apt to find less and less desirable workers. His dawn-hires were probably the men who appeared to be the strongest, the ones who got up extra early and could well have been hired by others, if not by him. As the day wore on, the workers still waiting were the consistently unchosen. Perhaps, they had been from market to market hoping to be found, but to no avail. Everything points to the fact that for this master, the workers mattered more than the work.

That leads to the second question. Who wants to be in this master’s employ? The early birds had no complaints at the moment of their hire. The situation was uninspiringly normal. They went to the labor market that day and got a job right away “for the usual daily wage.” Unlike the late-hires, they didn’t have to endure hours of worry speculating where they should go next, wondering whether or not they would get a job — if not today, perhaps tomorrow? Each time the owner returned to the market, the people he encountered were a little more anxious, and therefore, a little more grateful when he hired them. Those who had waited the longest were surely the most thrilled at finally being chosen. Conversely, as people stood in the pay line, with each group that received the same wage there was growing disillusionment and discontent at the back of the line.

The parable doesn’t canonize any of the workers, although it surely suggests that some ended up far more grateful to the owner and far more willing to work for him again. What’s the parable really about? Just what Isaiah said, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are God’s ways above ours.” We all hope for justice. The question from whose perspective do we understand it?

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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Instruction in service to the Kingdom

In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus speaks about God’s generosity. He challenges the misconception of God’s gifts as merely a reward for services rendered in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. God calls professing Christians to serve as laborers in His vineyard that is Jesus’ Kingdom of the Church. God gives His Christian children the mission to share the Gospel message of salvation and to bear the fruits of righteousness that are a sign to others to come to faith and believe in the promises of our generous and merciful God.

Have you answered God’s call to labor in His vineyard? Do you acknowledge the Lord’s blessings, and are you thankful for His mercy and forgiveness in your life? We demonstrate our gratitude to our Lord and Savior in the willing labor of our Christian witness. It is our righteous actions as Christians, living in obedience to the teachings of Christ and His Church, that is a testimony of our devotion and gratitude for His generosity in calling us, and all people, to eternal salvation and an everlasting home with Him in Heaven.

Exploring the Text

Introduction to the parable

Jesus told this parable to explain His statement after the conclusion of His encounter with the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-30 when He said: 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.  This passage is another of Jesus’ kingdom parables.  The parable concerns:

  • a vineyard
  • a master of the house who is also the lord of the vineyard
  • his foreman
  • the workers/laborers

Notice that the parable begins and ends with the same saying, but the end saying is in reverse order: But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first (Mt 19:30), and Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last (Mt 20:16). This parable appears only in Matthew’s Gospel.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Cultural context of the parable

In Mt 20:1, the Greek text describes the “lord of the vineyard” (see verse 8) by the word oikodespotes [oy-kod-es-pot’-ace], “the head of a family/master of the house.”  

When the master hired the laborers, they all agree to receive their pay in the “evening” (verse 8).  The Greek word is opsios = “afternoon, late in the day, at the close of the day, early evening, not yet sunset.”  The hours before sunset were the “end of the day” because, for the Jews, the next day began at sunset.  When Scripture refers to “evening” in Jewish time, it is always our afternoon and early evening.

A Roman denarius (verses 2 and 13 in the literal translation) was the average wage for a day laborer in the first century AD.  It was a silver coin that bore the image of the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar (Mt 22:19-21).

Notice the observance of Mosaic Law in the payment of the laborers.  According to the Law, a laborer was to receive his wage at the end of the day (Dt 24:14-15).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Intro to the symbolism in the parable

The key to this parable is that it is about the Kingdom that Jesus has come to proclaim.  There are seven symbolic images in the parable:

  1. vineyard = the Church, the kingdom of Heaven on earth/house of God
  2. housemaster/lord of the vineyard = God
  3. laborers = those who serve the kingdom/house of God in the Old and New Covenants or who come to serve the kingdom at different ages in a lifetime.
  4. marketplace = the world
  5. the foreman who pays the promised wage for service = Jesus
  6. wage = salvation
  7. hours = salvation history from Creation to the end of the Age of Humanity, or the lifetime of a person from birth to the end of life
  8. the harvest = the ingathering of souls into Jesus’ Kingdom of the Church in preparation for the final harvest at the end of time
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Symbolism of the hours

The hours from dawn to the end of the day probably refer to the progress of salvation history.  The laborers the Master (God) called to service first were the Israelites of the Old Covenant Church; they also complained about the hardships of their length of service.  The hours from dawn to the end of the day can also represent a person’s lifetime.  It doesn’t matter if a person is baptized at birth and continues to serve the Lord throughout his life, or if a person answers God’s call in his youth, or middle age, or even answers the call to salvation at the end of his life, God is generous in giving His gift of salvation in every case.

Notice the significant times the master hired the workers in the parable.  The Jewish day was divided into twelve seasonal hours (as Jesus said in Jn 11:9).  The times in the parable from the Greek text represent Jewish time:

  • dawn (6 AM our time)
  • the third hour (9 AM our time)
  • the sixth hour (noon our time)
  • the ninth hour (3 PM our time)
  • the eleventh hour (5 PM our time)

The night hours divided into four night watches in the first century AD with the twelve seasonal hours of daylight counting the hours from dawn to sunset with noon marking the middle of the day.  Therefore, noon is the sixth hour of the twelve-hour day.  The times in the parable correspond to the flow of daily life for the covenant people as determined by the prayer times associated with the Temple liturgy in the twice-daily sacrifice of the Tamid lamb.  The ‘olat ha-Tamid (literally “burning the-standing”) was the single communal sacrifice of two lambs: one in a morning liturgy and another in the afternoon.  It was the sacrifice of an unblemished male lamb as a whole burnt offering on the altar fire (given entirely to God) at the Jerusalem Temple for the atonement and sanctification of the covenant people.  See the e-book “Jesus and the Mystery of the Tamid Sacrifice.”

The mandatory communal sacrifice of the Tamid was first offered in the desert Sanctuary and later in the Jerusalem Temple.  The Jewish Talmud, in the section Mishnah: Tamid, records the order of the worship service, and Jewish priest-historian, Flavius Josephus,’ history of the Jews (Antiquities of the Jews) mentions the time of the afternoon liturgy.  The first lamb was brought to the altar at dawn and sacrificed at about 9 AM, the third-hour Jewish time.  The second lamb was brought to the altar at noon, the sixth-hour Jewish time, and was sacrificed at about 3 PM, the ninth hour Jewish time.  The Temple sacrifices had to end by the eleventh hour (about 5 PM), so the priests could cleanse the Temple before sundown.  The Tamid was a “standing/perpetual” communal sacrifice for the atonement and sanctification of the covenant people that had its origins in God’s command to Moses when he ascended the holy mountain at Sinai.  The instructions for the sacrifice first appear in Exodus 29:38-42 and again in Numbers 28:3-8.  The Hebrew word “tamid” means “standing” as perpetual or continual, but our English translations usually referred to it as the “daily sacrifice.”  It was the most important sacrifice of the Old Covenant, and no other sacrifice, not even the Passover sacrifice of thousands of lambs and goat kids or the sacrifice of atonement on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), was to have precedence over the Tamid.  This command appears 15 times in Numbers 28-29 (28:10, 15, 23, 24, 31; 29:6, 11, 16, 19, 22, 25, 28, 31, 34, and 38).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Symbolism of the laborers and the harvest

God calls laborers, men and women, to come and serve His kingdom from the “marketplace” of the world.  The wage He promises to pay for service to His kingdom is eternal salvation; it is a gift to all who serve faithfully and obediently.  The “foreman” who will pay the wage of eternal salvation is Jesus Christ: There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved (Acts 4:12).

Notice in the parable that more and more workers are hired and brought into the vineyard by the master/lord as the day progresses.  The season of the year is the “harvest” when there is a need for many workers.  In Jesus’ parable, the “harvest” is a metaphor for the harvest of believers into the Universal Church in the Messianic Age.

In other teachings, Jesus also used “laborers” or servants of the householder (Mt 13:27) who work in the “field” of the world (Mt 13:38).  The “harvest” is a metaphor for the gathering of souls into the Church and Heaven after the Last Judgment at the end of the Age of humanity.  An example is the parable of the weeds and the wheat (Mt 13:24-30, Mt 39-43): The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels (Mt 13:39b).  Jesus uses the same imagery in this parable, but this “harvest” cannot be at the end of the Age of Humanity since the laborers are human beings and not angels.  The laborers in this parable are the servants of the God the Master who plant the “good seed,” those who are the children of God (Mt 13:38), and harvest is the gathering of the souls of believers into the Housemaster’s/God’s earthly store-house that is the Universal Church.  The image for laborers in this parable is the same as in Mt 9:37.  In that verse, Jesus tells His disciples: “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; as ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest,” referring not to the final harvest of the angels at the Second Coming but the ongoing harvest of souls until that time.

Mt 20:13-14 ~ He said to one of them in reply, “My friend, I am not cheating you [treating you unjustly].  Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage [for a denarius]?  14 Take what is yours and go.  What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?”

The first workers are angry; they resent that the workers hired later are receiving the same wage.  God, the Master, is not unjust.  He is just because it was the wage they agreed to when He “hired” each group of laborers.  It is for the Housemaster/Lord of the vineyard that is the Kingdom (God) to decide to whom He is generous/extends the gift of salvation.

 Mt 20:15 ~ The Master continues: “[Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?  Are you envious because I am generous [is your eye evil because I am good]?”

The word “money” is not in the Greek text of verse 15; the verse reads, “Am I not free to do as I wish with my own.”  The “evil eye” is the same expression used in Mt 6:23 and may refer to Deuteronomy 15:9.  In both passages, it refers to envy and a lack of generosity.

We should ask, “What is the reason for the envy of the laborers hired first?”  Envy/jealousy was the reason for the first murder when Cain killed his brother Abel (Gen 4:3-8), and it is the same reason the chief priests and Pharisees wanted to condemn Jesus to death (see Mt 27:18).  It was the same sin that prevented many Old Covenant Jews from welcoming the Gentiles into the New Covenant (see Acts 15:1; 21:18-22).  The first laborers in the parable are envious because they begrudge the generosity of the “lord of the vineyard”/Lord of the Kingdom of Heaven in offering the same “wage,” the gift of salvation, to those who came to serve after them.  The first laborers represent the Jews who were envious of God extending His mercy and generosity to the Gentiles who had not previously known Him in a covenant relationship. They wanted their relationship with Yahweh to remain exclusive instead of inclusive.

Mt 20:16 ~   Jesus concludes the parable, saying, Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.  (For many are called, but few are chosen).”

The first part of this saying opens and closes (in reverse order) the parable and provides the reason the last workers receive payment first.  The last part of the statement, For many are called, but few are chosen, links the parable to the encounter with the rich young man who was called to a more intimate relationship with Christ as a laborer in the harvest of souls in the episode previous to this parable (see Mt 19:16-30).  It was a service that required sacrifice, a calling the rich young man was not prepared to accept.

The “first” called to be “laborers” for the harvest of souls into the Church of the New Covenant were the Jews.  But like the rich young man, they declined the “call” to the mission that was their destiny from the time God made them His people in the Exodus liberation and covenant formation at Sinai (Ex 19:5-6).  The “last” to be called are the faithful remnant of Israel (Jesus’ Apostles and disciples) and the Gentiles who will respond to the call of the Messiah and His Kingdom of the Church.  They will accept His call to labor in the world to spread the Gospel of salvation across the face of the earth.  They will be the “first” into the Kingdom of Heaven, whose gates were thrown open at Jesus’ Baptism (Mt 3:16; Mk 1:10; Lk 3:21).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The Messianic Age of the Church

The great harvest of souls in Jesus’ parable is the Messianic Age of the Church, welcoming all who accept Jesus as Lord and Savior into His Kingdom. This mission will continue until Christ returns in glory at the end of the Age of Humanity. We are living in the Age of the Great Harvest in Salvation History. You and I are laborers in God’s vineyard. We are among those called to share the Gospel message of salvation and to bear the fruits of righteousness that will be a sign to others to come to faith and belief in our generous and merciful God. The “hour” we come to serve the Master doesn’t matter. Some of us will come to believe in Christ from childhood, some as young adults, and some in old age. There will even be those who will not come until the “eleventh hour,” just before the sunset of life, and even to these, our generous and merciful God will grant His gift of salvation and accept them into His Kingdom.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Migrant workers from Asia next to the QP building in the West Bay area of Doha. Source: Wikimedia Commons

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The Catena Aurea

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.

List of Church Fathers

Here are some of the Church Fathers that Aquinas uses:

Third Century

  • Origen  – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian  – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius  – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius  – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary  – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose  – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome  – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius  – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine  – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom  – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine  – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus  – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea  – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium  – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea  – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus  – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium  – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria  – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin  – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian)  – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus  – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great”  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra  – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great  – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius  – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch  – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus  – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus  – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita  (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great  – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore  – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople)  – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh)  (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch)  – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus  – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius  – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.)  – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene  – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin  – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt)  – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople)  – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus  – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre)  – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus  – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact  – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm  – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus  – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc)  – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria
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Matthew 20:1-16

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1. For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an housholder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

2. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

3. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the market-place,

4. And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

5. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.

6. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?

7. They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

8. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.

9. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.

10. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.

11. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,

12. Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

13. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

14. Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

15. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

16. So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

REMIGIUS. To establish the truth of this saying, There are many first that shall be last, and last first, the Lord subjoins a similitude.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. The Master of the household is Christ, whose house are the heavens and the earth; and the creatures of the heavens, and the earth, and beneath the earth, His family. His vineyard is righteousness, in which are set divers sorts of righteousness as vines, as meekness, chastity, patience, and the other virtues; all of which are called by one common name righteousness. Men are the cultivators of this vineyard, whence it is said, Who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. For God placed His righteousness in our senses, not for His own but for our benefit. Know then that we are the hired labourers. But as no man gives wages to a labourer, to the end he should do nothing save only to eat, so likewise we were not thereto called by Christ, that we should labour such things only as pertain to our own good, but to the glory of God. And like as the hired labourer looks first to his task, and after to his daily food, so ought we to mind first those things which concern the glory of God, then those which concern our own profit. Also as the hired labourer occupies the whole day in his Lord’s work, and takes but a single hour for his own meal; so ought we to occupy our whole life in the glory of God, taking but a very small portion of it for the uses of this world. And as the hired labourer when he has done no work is ashamed that day to enter the house, and ask his food; how should not you be ashamed to enter the church, and stand before the face of God, when you have done nothing good in the sight of God?

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ev. xix, 1.) Or; The Master of the household, that is, our Maker, has a vineyard, that is, the Church universal, which has borne so many stocks, as many saints as it has put forth from righteous Abel to the very last saint who shall be born in the end of the world. To instruct this His people as for the dressing of a vineyard, the Lord has never ceased to send out His labourers; first by the Patriarchs, next by the teachers of the Law, then by the Prophets, and at the last by the Apostles, He has toiled in the cultivation of His vineyard; though every man, in whatsoever measure or degree he has joined good action with right faith, has been a labourer in the vineyard.

ORIGEN. For the whole of this present life may be called one day, long to us, short compared to the existence of God.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) The morning is that age of the world which was from Adam and Noah, and therefore it is said, Who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. The terms of their hiring He adds, And when he had agreed with the labourers for a denarius a day.

ORIGEN. The denarius I suppose here to mean salvation.

REMIGIUS. A denarius was a coin anciently equal to ten sesterces, and bearing the king’s image. Well therefore does the denarius represent the reward of the keeping of the decalogue. And that, Having agreed with them for a denarius a day, is well said, to shew that every man labours in the field of the holy Church in hope of the future reward.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) The third hour is the period from Noah to Abraham; of which it is said, And he went out about the third hour; and saw others standing in the market-placeidle.

ORIGEN. The market-place is all that is without the vineyard, that is, without the Church of Christ.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. For in this world men live by buying and selling, and gain their support by defrauding each other.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) He that lives to himself, and feeds on the delights of the flesh, is rightly accused as idle, forasmuch as he does not seek the fruit of godly labour.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Or; The idle are not sinners, for they are called dead. But he is idle who works not the work of God. Do you desire to be not idle? Take not that which is another’s; and give of that which is your own, and you have laboured in the Lord’s vineyard, cultivating the vine of mercy. It follows, And he said unto them, Go ye also into my vineyard. Observe that it is with the first alone that He agrees upon the sum to be given, a denarius; the others are hired on no express stipulation, but What is right I will give you. For the Lord knowing that Adam would fall, and that all should hereafter perish in the deluge, made conditions for him, that he should never say that he therefore neglected righteousness, because he knew not what reward he should have. But with the rest He made no contract, seeing He was prepared to give more than the labourers could hope.

ORIGEN. Or, He did not call upon the labourers of the third hour for a complete task, but left to their own choice, how much they should work. For they might perform in the vineyard work equal to that of those who had wrought since the morning, if they chose to put forth upon their task an operative energy, such as had not yet been exerted.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) The sixth hour is that from Abraham to Moses, the ninth that from Moses to the coming of the Lord.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. These two hours are coupled together, because in the sixth and ninth it was that He called the generation of the Jews, and multiplied to publish His testaments among men, whereas the appointed time of salvation now drew nigh.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) The eleventh hour is that from the coming of the Lord to the end of the world. The labourer in the morning, at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, denotes the ancient Hebrew people, which in its elect from the very beginning of the world, while it zealously and with right faith served the Lord, ceased not to labour in the husbandry of the vineyard. But at the eleventh the Gentiles are called. For they who through so many ages of the world had neglected to labour for their living, were they who had stood the whole day idle. But consider their answer; They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us; for neither Patriarch nor Prophet had come to them. And what is it to say, No man hath hired us, but to say, None has preached to us the way of life,

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. For what is our hiring, and the wages of that hiring? The promise of eternal life; for the Gentiles knew neither God, nor God’s promises.

HILARY. These then are sent into the vineyard, Go ye also into my vineyard.

RABANUS. But when they had rendered their day’s task, at the fitting time for payment, When even was come, that is, when the day of this world was drawing to its close.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Consider, He gives the reward not the next morning, but in the evening. Thus the judgment shall take place while this world is still standing, and each man shall receive that which is due to him. This is on two accounts. First, because the happiness of the world to come is to be itself the reward of righteousness; so the award is made before, and not in that world. Secondly, that sinners may not behold the blessedness of that day, The Lord saith unto his steward, that is, the Son to the Holy Spirit.

GLOSS. (non occ. sed vid. Raban.) Or, if you choose, the Father saith unto the Son; for the Father wrought by the Son, and the Son by the Holy Spirit, not that there is any difference of substance, or majesty.

ORIGEN. Or; The Lord said to his steward, that is, to one of the Angels who was set over the payment of the labourers; or to one of those many guardians, according to what is written, that The heir as long as he is a child is under tutors and governors. (Gal. 4:2.)

REMIGIUS. Or, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the master of the household, and also the steward, like as He is the door, and also the keeper of the door. For He Himself will come to judgment, to render to each man according to that he has done. He therefore calls His labourers, and renders to them their wages, so that when they shall be gathered together in the judgment, each man shall receive according to his works.

ORIGEN. But the first labourers having the witness through faith have not received the promise of God, the lord of the household providing some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. (Heb. 11:40.) And because we have obtained mercy, we hope to receive the reward first, we, that is, who are Christ’s, and after us they that wrought before us; wherefore it is said, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. For we always give more willingly, where we give without return, seeing it is for our own honour that we give. Therefore God in giving reward to all the saints shews himself just; in giving to us, merciful; as the Apostle speaks, That the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; (Rom. 16:9.) and thence it is said, Beginning from the last even unto the first. Or surely that God may shew His inestimable mercy, He first rewards the last and more unworthy, and afterwards the first; for of His great mercy He regarded not order of merit.

AUGUSTINE. (de Spir. et Lit. 24.) Or; The lesser are therefore taken as first, because the lesser are to be made rich.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) They get alike a denarius who have wrought since the eleventh hour, (for they sought it with their whole soul,) and who have wrought since the first. They, that is, who were called from the beginning of the world have alike received the reward of eternal happiness, with those who come to the Lord in the end of the world.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. And this not with injustice. For he who was born in the first period of the world, lived no longer than the determined time of his life, and what harm was it to him, though the world continued after his leaving it? And they that shall be born towards its close will not live less than the days that are numbered to them. And how does it cut then labour shorter, that the world is speedily ended, when they have accomplished their thread of life before? Moreover it is not of man to be born sooner or later, but of the power of God. Therefore he that is born first cannot claim to himself a higher place, nor ought he to be held in contempt that was born later. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, saying. But if this we have said be true, that both first and last have lived their own time, and neither more nor less; and that each man’s death is his consummation, what means this that they say, We have borne the burden and heat of the day? Because to know that the end of the world is at hand is of great force to make us do righteousness. Wherefore Christ in His love to us said, The kingdom of heaven shall draw nigh. (Matt. 4:2.) Whereas it was a weakening of them to know that the duration of the world was to be yet long. So that though they did not indeed live through the whole of time, they seem in a manner to have borne its weight. Or, by the burden of the day is meant the burdensome precepts of the Law; and the heat may be that consuming temptation to error which evil spirits contrived for them, stirring them to imitate the Gentiles; from all which things the Gentiles were exempt, believing on Christ, and by compendiousness of grace being saved completely.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Or; To bear the burden and heat of the day, is to be wearied through a life of long duration with the heats of the flesh. But it may be asked, How can they be said to murmur, when they are called to the kingdom of heaven? For none who murmurs shall receive the kingdom, and none who receives that can murmur.

CHRYSOSTOM. But we ought not to pursue through every particular the circumstances of a parable, but enter into its general scope, and seek nothing further. This then is not introduced in order to represent some as moved with envy, but to exhibit the honour that shall be given us as so great as that it might stir the jealousy of others.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Or because the old fathers down to the Lord’s coming, notwithstanding their righteous lives, were not brought to the kingdom, this murmur is theirs. But we who have come at the eleventh hour, do not murmur after our labours, forasmuch as having come into this world after the coming of the Mediator, we are brought to the kingdom as soon as ever we depart out of the body.

JEROME. Or, all that were called of old envy the Gentiles, and are pained at the grace of the Gospel.

HILARY. And this murmur of the labourers corresponds with the frowardness of this nation, which even in the time of Moses were stiff-necked.

REMIGIUS. By this one to whom his answer is given, may be understood all the believing Jews, whom he calls friends because of their faith.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Their complaint was not that they were defrauded of their rightful recompense, but that the others had received more than they deserved. For the envious have as much pain at others’ success as at their own loss. From which it is clear, that envy flows from vain glory. A man is grieved to be second, because he wishes to be first. He removes this feeling of envy by saying, Didst thou not agree with me for a denarius?

JEROME. A denarius bears the figure of the king. You have therefore received the reward which I promised you, that is, my image and likeness; what desirest thou more? And yet it is not that thou shouldest have more, but that another should have less that thou seekest. Take that is thine, and go thy way.

REMIGIUS. That is, take thy reward, and enter into glory. I will give to this last, that is, to the gentile people, according to their deserts, as to thee.

ORIGEN. Perhaps it is to Adam He says, Friend, I do thee no wrong; didst thou not agree with me for a denarius? Take that thine is, and go thy way. Salvation is thine, that is, the denarius. I will give unto this last also as unto thee. A person might not improbably suppose, that this last was the Apostle Paul, who wrought but one hour, and was made equal with all who had been before him.

AUGUSTINE. (de Sanc. Virg. 26.) Because that life eternal shall be equal to all the saints, a denarius is given to all; but forasmuch as in that life eternal the light of merits shall shine diversely, there are with the Father many mansions; so that under this same denarius bestowed unequally one shall not live longer than another, but in the many mansions one shall shine with more splendour than another.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) And because the attainment of this kingdom is of the goodness of His will, it is added, Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? For it is a foolish complaint of man to murmur against the goodness of God. For complaint is not when a man gives not what he is not bound to give, but if he gives not what he is bound to give; whence it is added, Is thine eye evil because I am good?

REMIGIUS. By the eye is understood his purpose. The Jews had an evil eye, that is, an evil purpose, seeing they were grieved at the salvation of the Gentiles. Whereto this parable pointed, He shews by adding, So the first shall be last, and the last first; and so the Jews of the head are become the tail, and we of the tail are become the head.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Or; He says the first shall be last, and the last first, not that the last are to be exalted before the first, but that they should be put on an equality, so that the difference of time should make no difference in their station. That He says, For many are called, but few chosen, is not to be taken of the elder saints, but of the Gentiles; for of the Gentiles who were called being many, but few were chosen.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) There be very many come to the faith, yet but few arrive at the heavenly kingdom; many follow God in words, but shun Him in their lives. Whereof spring two things to be thought upon. The first, that none should presume ought concerning himself; for though he be called to the faith, he knows not whether he shall be chosen to the kingdom. Secondly, that none should despair of his neighbour, even though he see him lying in vices; because he knows not the riches of the Divine mercy.

Or otherwise. The morning is our childhood; the third hour may be understood as our youth, the sun as it were mounting to his height is the advance of the heat of age; the sixth hour is manhood, when the sun is steady in his meridian height, representing as it were the maturity of strength; by the ninth is understood old age, in which the sun descends from his vertical height, as our age falls away from the fervour of youth; the eleventh hour is that age which is called decrepit, and doting.

CHRYSOSTOM. That He called not all of them at once, but some in the morning, some at the third hour, and so forth, proceeded from the difference of their minds1. He then called them when they would obey; as He also called the thief when he would obey. Whereas they say, Because no man hath hired us, we ought not to force a sense out of every particular in a parable. Further, it is the labourers and not the Lord who speak thus; for that He, as far as it pertains to Him, calls all men from their earliest years, is shewn in this, He went out early in the morning to hire labourers.

GREGORY. They then who have neglected till extreme old age to live unto God, have stood idle to the eleventh hour, yet even these the master of the household calls, and oftentimes gives them their reward before other, inasmuch as they depart out of the body into the kingdom before those that seemed to be called in their childhood.

ORIGEN. But this, Why stand ye here all the day idle? is not said to such as having begun in the spirit (Gal. 3:3) have been made perfect by the flesh, as inviting them to return again, and to live in the Spirit. This we speak not to dissuade prodigal sons, who have consumed their substance of evangelic doctrine in riotous living, from returning to their father’s house; but because they are not like those who sinned in their youth, before they had learnt the things of the faith.

CHRYSOSTOM. When He says, The first shall be last, and the last first, He alludes secretly to such as were at the first eminent, and afterwards set at nought virtue; and to others who have been reclaimed from wickedness, and have surpassed many. So that this parable was made to quicken the zeal of those who are converted in extreme old age, that they should not suppose that they shall have less than others.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000

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