AD SENSE

25th Sunday A - Vineyard Laborers and God's Justice and Mercy

 Small ‘c’ church

On a business trip to South America, he visited a small church in one of the poor barrios.  He was deeply moved by what he saw: the joy-filled faith of these families despite the overwhelming poverty of their daily lives.  When he returned home, he was telling some friends after Mass about what he had seen.  The group wondered what they could do to help, so they contacted the pastor of the barrio parish.  The priest expressed gratitude for any help, especially for the parish’s school and small clinic.  So the group collected school and medical supplies and shipped them; next they gathered up blankets and clothes; now they are raising money to dig a new well for the community.  They see themselves as just a group of friends doing what they are able to do for their South American brothers and sisters.  But, in truth, they are being church.

It’s known as “the list” — names and telephone numbers of folks in the parish who can be called day or night.  An elderly parishioner needs a ride to the doctor?  Call Susan.  The young couple struggling through her difficult pregnancy?  Sheila and Pat will make sure they have supper and groceries this week.  The one car of a family whose parents have been out of work for some time breaks down?  Neil knows what to do.  It is more than a list of numbers.  It is church.

When they were in grammar school, they participated in the parish’s vacation religious education program every summer and always had a great time.  Now that they are in high school, they return every July to serve as leaders and counselors — and often become big brothers and big sisters to the kids.  The adults who are responsible for the week’s program will tell you immediately that these teens make the program go.  They are more than a terrific group of generous teenagers.  They are church.


In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the “church” — not the institutional capital ‘C’ Church, but the lower-case ‘c’ church that is you and I, human beings who struggle to follow Jesus.  That is the important lesson of today’s Gospel: the ability of individuals who come together as disciples, inspired by the Gospel Jesus, to accomplish great works of compassion, reconciliation, healing and justice.  May the grace of God bring us together, even just two or three of us, in Jesus’ name, enabling us to mirror God’s love in our midst.   

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ILLUSTRATIONS: 


A cry we often hear from people's lips is: "It's not fair!? We tend to believe that the way we are treated is not fair; we are not getting what we deserve. Other people seem to get all the benefits they don?t deserve. It?s not fair! Deep down we have to admit that we are not happy when people get more than they deserve. The truth is God is not fair! He gives all more than they deserve! Have a grateful weekend thanking God for his goodness to all peoples! Fr. Jude


In today's first reading from the book of Isaiah the last two verses draw our attention and tie up with the message contained in the gospel parable of the labourers in the vineyard. ?My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways?, says the Lord. God is completely different from what we human beings imagine and we often create and imagine our God to be petty and parochial like we ourselves are. Isaiah will remind us that we are both at opposite extremes and the more we believe, the more we draw close to God, the more our attitudes, our behaviour and our lives should reflect the God we believe in.


Amazing Grace


The man who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace has been a slave trader and had taken part in the most inhuman and cruel treatment of people. He called himself a wretch who deserved nothing but contempt and punishment but instead found himself pardoned and raised to a position of trust and responsibility. How could he otherwise describe it but as Amazing Grace? Many people seem to feel poor always because they never give themselves to the cause of God, whereas, people like John Calvin felt that his life was always rich because his one purpose in life was to serve the Lord. Therefore when the physician told him that he must cease from working so much or he would die because he had a complication of a painful disease, he replied, ?Would you have my Master come and find me loitering?? No servant of God can get tired of serving the Lord. He may be tired in the service, but never tired of it.


Vima Dasan in His Word Lives?


In the Gospel we have the parable of the landowner who goes out to hire labourers to work in his vineyard and makes a deal with them with regard to their wages. The Gospel does not tell us why he went out at regular intervals almost till the day was done and invited labourers to come and work for him promising to reward them. When evening came and the time for receiving their wages all the labourers were in for a surprise. Those who had work for only an hour received a full day?s wage. But the real bomb shell came when those who had worked the whole day also received the same day?s wage and they protested and grumbled against the landlord. ?It?s not fair! We have worked more that those who came in at the last minute, we have shouldered the burden of the entire day and why should we not get paid for it? Surely we deserve more than we received.? At the outset we have to say that the parable is not a moral lesson in labour relations! How could the


landowner, who obviously stands for God in the parable, treat his dependants in such a shabby manner? What could come as a shock to us is that the whole thrust of the parable is that nobody can bargain with God, or claim the right to a reward from God. What Jesus is here stating in a rather striking way is that God is not in the business of bargaining, that eternal life is a sheer gift that comes from God?s generosity. In today?s gospel we have a fantastic insight into the wisdom of reversal of values which is at the heart of the Kingdom of God. The context in which it was originally told must have been a complaint of Jesus? opponents that he was paying more attention to outcasts than to the respectable members of society. If the parable referred to the Pharisees complaint at Jesus? generous treatment of sinners, then it means that Jesus is treating sinners, the latecomers into the kingdom with the same mercy as he has for those who have borne the burden of the Law.


Winners all!


On every side, people are more conscious of their rights with less concern for the real needs of others. The unemployed, the homeless, the less fortunate experience themselves more and more excluded by the better off. Those who have want more. Such attitude was there from the beginning, apparently. While Adam and Eve had everything they needed, they were tempted to desire something extra with disastrous consequences. The early workers in the vineyard were not satisfied with their agreed wage and begrudged the latecomers a similar wage. Today?s gospel is a stern reminder to be aware of the destructive selfishness that can so easily take over our hearts. We tend to ignore the fact that we have no claim to this world?s goods over and above our brothers and sisters at home or elsewhere. Creation and life itself are God?s gifts, given for all equally. Talents and work opportunities are not entitlements to self aggrandizements but rather make one responsible for building a better world for all. No matter how small is the contribution we make to our neighbour?s welfare, it is ours to make.


Tom Clancy in ?Living the Word?


Last shall be first


A VIP had been invited to perform the prize-giving ceremony. The first three runners home were waiting, all smiles, to take their places on the victory podium. The first sign that something unusual was about to happen was when the VIP said he wanted all the runners present at the ceremony. The runners were duly called, and all was now set. Then what did he do? He called the man who came in last and gave the gold medal to him. He gave the silver medal to the man who had come second last, and the bronze medal to the man who came third last. There were gasps of astonishment from the crowd, and sighs of embarrassment from the organisers. The mistake was pointed out to him. But he said, ?This is the way I want it.? Then he proceeded to give a warm handshake to each of the other runner's right down to the man who came first. When the latter came forward he was very angry. ?This is not fair!? he exclaimed. ?So you think it?s not fair? The VIP replied calmly. ?I do,? said the man. "I won the race. So I deserve to get the gold medal." ?Friend,? said the VIP, ?haven?t you got enough already?? ?What do you mean?? the man asked. ?You?ve had the satisfaction of winning the race. You've had the applause of the crowd and the attention of the media. On top of all this, you?ve had lucrative contracts offered to you. Now consider the man who came last. He finished the race too. And what did he get for his efforts? Nothing. Would it be fairer if you got everything while he got nothing?? With that the victor was reduced to silence. Still fuming, he turned and went away. The aim of this story is not to down-play the achievement of the winner but to make a point. It seems wrong that one person should get everything, while another gets nothing. I know this is exactly what happens in our world ? the winner takes all.


Flor McCarthy in ?New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies?


Work Parable


The 1954 movie On the Waterfront is considered a classic in film making. It features Marlon Brando as longshoreman Terry Malloy, who gets locked in a brutal battle with the ruthless labour boss Johnny Friendly, played by Lee J. Cobb. The issue is the rights of the dock workers. Not only are the longshoremen being exploited by the ship owners, but they are also being shaken down by their own union leaders. With the help of Fr. Barry (played by Karl Balden) and Edie Doyle (played by Eva Marie Saint) Terry Malloy undergoes a transformation after his brother is murdered by Johnny Friendly's goons. From being a tough and uncaring street fighter, he becomes a crusader for his fellow workers ad testifies for them to the crime commission against their corrupt labour bosses. Today?s gospel also deals with a labour problem. At first it appears that the parable is setting up a model for management and labour relationships. Such is not the case. The parable by our


Lord is more about the generosity of God than about working conditions. The story is more about the supreme goodness of God than about wage settlements. The punch line in the parable is the statement at the end: ?I intend to give this man who was hired last the same pay. I am free to do as I please with my money, am I not? Or are you envious because I am generous?? In his book The Parables of Jesus, Joachim Jeremias says that today?s gospel portrays the behaviour of a large-hearted man who is compassionate and full of sympathy for the poor.


Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds?


Who the hell's in heaven?

God once strolled around heaven and was surprised to see everyone there. Hell, in contrast, was empty. Irked by God's leniency, Fr. Pius protested. To pacify him, God ordered Peter to re-examine all those already admitted into heaven, whereupon Peter read the Ten Commandments aloud. ?Whoever has broken these commandments,? announced God, ?Shall dissociate from this celestial company and descend to hell!? As Peter read the commandments, one by one, people confessed their guilt and disappeared. When the fifth commandment was read, few were left, and after the sixth, everyone went to hell except Fr. Pius. Feeling lonely, God said, ?Tell them all to come back!? Pius grumbled, ?O God, that's unfair! Why didn't you tell me this before?? Professedly pious Christians like Fr. Pius, you, and me, might find God's ways woeful. But, that's what the first reading asserts:


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1.     From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection: 


 1: “That’s not fair!” How many times, in the course of a given day, have you heard someone protest, “That’s not fair!” Children on a playground shout when they detect a foul play: “That’s not fair!” Siblings doing household chores may complain, “I’m doing more work!” or “My chores are more difficult; that’s not fair!” Students at school may resent the extra attention given to a classmate… “She’s the teacher’s favorite; that’s not fair!” A brother thinks his piece of pie is smaller than his sister’s — “That’s not fair!” Someone at work receives a raise in salary when another person thinks he/she is more deserving: “I have seniority. I’ve been here longer; that’s not fair!” The coach of the Little League baseball team always puts her child in as starting pitcher; other players are annoyed… “That’s not fair!” Taxpayers bristle at the fact that increasing numbers of people are applying for and receive welfare from the government… “I have to work hard to make a living for me and my family. So should everyone else… that’s not fair!” In each of these several examples, human sensibilities regarding fairness and patience have been offended, precisely because of the fact that they are human. Most of us think that good work, seniority and experience should be rewarded, that all should be subject to the same rules, like “First come, first served,” that everyone should be treated impartially and that there should be no exceptions and no favorites! Therefore, when confronted with a situation such as that put before us in today’s Gospel parable of identical wages for different numbers of hours of work, our sense of fairness in provoked. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez). — This is probably one of the most controversial parables ever uttered by Jesus Christ, creating heated debate about the unusual generosity of a benevolent vineyard owner. (Fr. Tony) 


2: Fairness of deathbed conversions: Conversions at the point of death have a long history. The first recorded deathbed conversion appears in the Gospel of Luke where the good thief, crucified beside Jesus, expresses belief in Christ. Jesus accepts his conversion, saying “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.” Perhaps the most momentous conversion in Western history was that of Constantine IRoman Emperor, later proclaimed a Christian Saint. While his belief in Christianity occurred long before his death, it was only in 337 on his deathbed that he was baptized. A famous literary genius who entered the Church at the final moment was Oscar Wilde. He had written plays like The Importance of Being Ernest and novels, such as The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde lived a notorious lifestyle. He did things that scandalized, even repulsed, his contemporaries. What most do not know, however, is that at the end of life he converted to Catholicism! On his deathbed, Oscar Wilde asked for and received baptism and anointing of the sick from Fr. Cuthbert Dunne. But he was unable to receive the Eucharist. As in today’s parable, he entered the vineyard – the Church – at the last hour. While Wilde’s conversion may have come as a surprise, he had long maintained an interest in the Catholic Church, having met with Pope Pius IX in 1877. He described the Roman Catholic Church as “for saints and sinners alone – for respectable people, the Anglican Church will do.” Some might consider this type of eleventh hour, deathbed conversion unfair. They might feel like the workers who started working early and received equal wage with the late comers. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deathbed_conversion ) (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


3: “Size up the salary.” If you want to get people upset very quickly in today’s world, all you have to do is begin talking about salaries. We often play the game of comparing our salary to someone else’s salary. It is called “size up the salary.” When we play that game, we usually compare our wages with a person who is making more money than we are. They are making more money, and they seem to have less skill and education. Then we become upset, but we usually don’t say anything, just simmer inside. That is the way we normally play the “size up the salary” game. I believe the origins of the women’s movement was initiated by unequal salaries for equal work. Women simply wanted equal pay for equal work. Money, salaries, equal pay for equal work, affirmative action: these words cause all kinds of tensions within us. It is with this tense and conflicted mood that we approach Jesus’ parable for today. Today’s Gospel presents a group of farm workers playing that game and judging the generosity of the land-owner unjust and unfair. (Sermons from Seattle). (Fr. Tony) 


4.  “All I want is my fair share.” In the classic “Charlie Brown Christmas Special,” Sally is writing a letter to Santa Claus and in the process, generates an enormous list of toys she wants. Then at the conclusion of her North Pole-bound missive she writes, “But if that is too much to carry, just send cash.” When Charlie Brown sees this and despairs over his own sister’s greed, Sally indignantly responds, “All I want is my fair share. All I want is what I have coming to me!”


5.  Gratitude for the grace of two teeth: It was Thanksgiving season in the nursing home.  The small resident population was gathered about their humble Thanksgiving table, and the director asked each in turn to express one thing for which they were thankful.  Thanks were expressed for a home in which to stay, families, etc.  One little old lady when her turn came said, ’I thank the Lord for two perfectly good teeth, one in my upper jaw and one in my lower jaw that match so that I can chew my food.’


6. “We thank you Lord that all days are not like today.” Several mission parishes in North Dakota were being served by a holy old pastor.  The people were always amazed, for no matter what the circumstances, he could always find something to give thanks for. As he made his rounds one cold December morning, he was late getting to Holy Mass because of excessive snowdrifts.  As he began the Mass, the parishioners were eager to hear what the old priest could come up with to be thankful for on this dismal and frigid morning.  “Gracious Lord,” his prayer began, “we thank you that all days are not like today.”


7. “ARE YOU ENVIOUS BECAUSE I AM GENEROUS?” There was a guy who died and was being given a tour of heaven, and he saw a friend of his drive by in a beautiful Mercedes. He said, “Boy, this is great! “Oh, yes,” St. Peter said, “your friend was really generous on earth; we had a lot to work with. Your transportation up here depends on your generosity down there.” Then St. Peter gave him his transportation: a Honda motor scooter. He said, “Wait a minute, he gets a Mercedes, and I get a scooter? “That’s right, it’s all we had to work with.” So the guy drove off in a huff. A week later Peter saw this guy all smiles and said, “You feeling better now?” The guy said, “Yea, I have ever since I saw my preacher go by on a skateboard! “A life of generosity reflects God’s nature in a special way. Surely, God is just; but He is also outrageously generous and merciful at the same time. We do not get what we deserve. Rather God gives us more than we deserve. Today, He calls each one of us to be a generous people.


32 Additional anecdotes


1) Henry Ford & James Couzens. When Henry Ford started his car company in 1903, he took a business partner, James Couzens. Couzens was strong where Ford was weakest — administration, finance, sales, etc. Couzens contributed as much to the success of the Ford motor company as did Ford. Many of the best-known policies and practices of the Ford Motor company for which Henry Ford is often given credit were Couzens’ ideas. So effective did Couzens become that Ford grew increasingly jealous of him and forced him out in 1917 in an argument over the future of the Model T. Couzens said the car was obsolete and that they should move on to other things. Ford disagreed, got rid of Couzens, and kept making Model Ts until he had nearly run his car company into the ground. — What happens, even to bright successful people, to cause them to hurt their own careers rather than share the glory with someone else? We call it pride, envy or ego. Today’s Gospel tells us how the early recruits to the vineyard became jealous of the living wage given to the later recruits. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


2) No more sermons on smoking, drinking and gambling: A young priest with a lot of zeal began his pastoral life as the associate pastor at a parish in the hills of Kentucky. On the first Sunday, he preached on the evils of smoking.  After Mass, some of the parish leaders met him at the door:  “We’re a little surprised that you would deal with the subject of smoking because nearly half of the state of Kentucky raises tobacco.  You might want to think twice about talking about tobacco in our Church.” The priest thanked them for enlightening him.  The next Sunday he came back and preached with additional fervor against liquor and its evils.  The same group met him at the door after the Holy Mass.  They said: “We think we need to tell you that you ought to be careful about preaching against alcoholic beverages, especially since nearly a third of our county distills whiskey.”  “I didn’t know that,” the young priest replied.  “Thank you for helping me.”  The next Sunday he preached a stirring sermon on gambling, especially on horse races. The same group met him after the Mass: “We think we need to tell you that over half of our county raises thoroughbred racehorses, so you want to be real careful about talking about gambling from the pulpit.”  Being a quick learner, the next Sunday, based on the gospel text of Peter’s attempt to walk on water, the young priest preached against the evils of scuba diving in international waters! Obviously, this young priest took the easy way out by compromising with evil.  But this is not what we, as Christians, are called to do, as Jesus demonstrates in the parable of the workers in the vineyard in today’s Gospel.  He tells the Jews that, although they are the first-comers in God’s vineyard as God’s chosen race, the latecomers, like his Gentile disciples, are going to inherit the same kingdom of God, which they had thought was “reserved” for themselves.  The result of this parable was to turn their lives upside down.  Ultimately, this is why Jesus was crucified…. because he said things that made people uncomfortable about their own compromising with evil. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


3) His own house to accommodate sex offenders: A former tough-on-crime Pennsylvania lawmaker has adopted a new and unpopular cause, taking into his home three sex offenders who couldn’t find a place to live – a stand that has angered neighbors, drawn pickets and touched off a zoning dispute. As cities across the nation pass ever-tighter laws to keep out people convicted of sex crimes, Tom Armstrong said he is drawing on his religious belief in forgiveness and sheltering the three men until he can open a halfway house for sex offenders Nearly 100 Pennsylvania municipalities have ordinances restricting where sex offenders may live. The ordinances generally bar them from moving in next to schools, playgrounds or other places where children might gather. In early June, Armstrong quietly allowed a rapist and two other sex offenders who had served prison time to move into his 15-room century-old home 75 miles west of Philadelphia after another town blocked his plans for another halfway house … A Republican, Armstrong served 12 years in the Legislature before he was defeated in a primary in 2002. He was known for taking conservative positions on abortion, taxes and crime but also for his role in later years supporting prisoners’ rights. Over the past two decades, he also took in homeless veterans, and more recently he has been a mentor to ex-cons. This story, written by Marc Levy and published in Fresno Bee (August 17, 2008, p. A3), gives us a glimpse of how a stance of generosity and compassion can generate resistance and resentment among those who feel that such benevolence is unwarranted. Today’s strange parable of a landowner who hired laborers at five different times during the course of one day to work in his vineyard, but paid the identical living wage for a full day’s work to all of them, tells us that our God shows such generosity. (Lectio Divina) (Fr. Tony)


4) Thief Dismas & St. Peter on the same street in Heaven: There is a story about Simon Peter and Dismas, the repentant thief on the cross. Simon Peter, the big disciple, and Dismas, the thief on the cross, both died and went up to Heaven. They both knocked on the door, and they both got into Heaven. But, up in Heaven, Simon Peter discovered that he lived on the same street with Dismas, the thief on the cross. Peter was not pleased with this situation. Well, one day, God came walking by and Peter decided to ask God about it. He said, “You know God, Dismas and I are living on the same street here in Heaven and we have similar houses. I want you to know that I left everything for you. I left my fishing nets for you, my occupation, my boat, my nets. I left my good wife. I left my children. I gave up all these and I followed you my whole adult life and I was crucified upside down at the end of my life in Rome. Dismas here, he wasn’t a Christian for even fifteen minutes. And here we are: on the same street in Heaven. I don’t get it.” God said, “Come on, Peter get off it. Your fishing nets were filled with holes. You fishing boat was falling apart and not really safe. You know very well your kids were rebellious teenagers that you were trying to get away from. Besides, your wife was quite a nag and you wanted to get out of the house and away from her nagging. And you were crucified by the Roman government because they wanted to kill you. So don’t give me this ‘holier than thou’ stuff Peter, because I know you better than that. I knew your heart then and now.” Yes, both Peter and Dismas received grace as a gift, undeserved, unearned, and they received their gift as a surprise. Today’s Gospel gives us the message that eternal salvation is a gift from God in response to our grateful cooperation in the Divine plan. (Rev Ed Markquart). (Fr. Tony) 


5) “Would you pray for me?” A man named Charles was lying in a hospital bed near death. The nursing staff, the man’s wife and a couple of children all testified that Charles was not a very nice man. He drank too much, he was verbally abusive to his wife and he had alienated his children. He did, however, ask for a Chaplain. The staff filled the Chaplain in on Charles and the kind of person he was. The Chaplain went in to the room to visit Charles who asked him to pray. The conversation went something like this. “Would you pray for me?” Charles asked. “What do you want to say to God?” The Chaplain asked. “Tell God that I am sorry for the way my life has turned out. Tell him that I am sorry for the way I treated my wife and family and that I’ve always really loved her.” “That’s it?” “No. Tell God that I know I have no right to ask this — but, I would like to be able to live with him. “The Chaplain prayed Charles’ prayer for him. He came back the next morning to inquire about Charles’ condition. He had passed away during the night. Now what do you suppose? Did Charles receive the grace of God? And if he did, did he receive as much of God’s love and grace as you and I have after all these years of service? Here’s what Jesus’ parable about equal wages is trying to say. God is always available to anyone who reaches out whenever they reach out. God’s timing is such that any time is the right time! (Rev. John Jewell). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


6) Don’t win lotteries! There have been enough lottery winners in America now to have a few studies of winners done. A report on the TV News Magazine 20/20 told the story of how families — especially extended families — had more conflict after a lottery windfall that they did before the winnings came. (The lottery is a kind of twisted Robin Hood that robs from the poor to make someone rich!) When someone wins the lottery, the family and friends are happy for them — in the beginning. Soon, however there is a resentment that sneaks into the picture. Brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and second cousins once removed — move from being happy for the newly wealthy relatives to feeling that they are somehow owed a “share” of the take. One couple in a Chicago suburb won a few million dollars in the lottery. They wanted to continue living in their same neighborhood and keep their same friends. Things were okay at first, but eventually their neighbors grew more distant. “People who used to invite us over seemed to call less. Finally the phone stopped ringing,” the wife said. Today’s Gospel tells us that we are basically jealous even towards God when He chooses to lavish His grace on others. (Rev. John Jewell). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

7) Size up the salary game: Do you have any idea what garbage haulers are making today? The people who pick up the garbage from our homes, do you realize what they are earning each day? Those county workers who are standing out there in circles on the street, do you know what they are making per hour? Have you seen what electricians are making per hour nowadays? A whole bunch of people want to be making as much as those garbage collectors, those country workers, and those electricians. … And those professional athletes? Their salaries are ridiculous. So are the salaries of our television entertainers, and those CEOs who are making so much money today—and all of that contributes to make our economy a shambles. If you want to get people upset very quickly in today’s world, all you have to do is begin talking about salaries. We often play the game of comparing our salary to someone else’s salary. It is called “size up our salary.” When we play that game, we usually compare our wages with a person who is making more money than we are. They are making more money, and they seem to have less skill and education. Then we become upset, but we usually don’t say anything, just simmer inside. That is the way we normally play the “size up the salary” game. Today’s Gospel gives us a different type of salary game played by God. (Rev Ed Markquart). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


8) President John F. Kennedy’s murderer: People who feel unaccepted and unacceptable are the cause of most of the world’s great tragedies. Take the case of Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was a chronic loser. Even the Communists didn’t want him. He had failed at everything he had ever attempted. He was plagued with a feeling of sexual inadequacy. He had a lowly job. He had a lovely wife, but she was constantly putting him down. And in the same country there was a president — rich, youthful, charming, handsome, with a beautiful wife – and he was head of the most powerful country in the world. John F. Kennedy was everything Lee Harvey Oswald was not. And so Oswald bought a cheap Italian rifle by mail order for $12.95, a scope, for $4.00, and some ammunition. Then he positioned himself in a school supplies building in Dallas, Texas, and waited. Was the killing of Kennedy political or was it personal? Was it the result of a foreign conspiracy or was it the work of a tortured man who had tremendous fears about his own self-worth? Today’s Gospel tells us about a group of such jealous workers. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


9) You can’t build up “brownie points” with God. Some of you women, when you were young girls, undoubtedly belonged to an organization known as Brownies. This is the youngest segment of the Girl Scout organization–from ages seven to nine. Like the other members of this organization dedicated to fostering good citizenship and service, as a Brownie you earned “points” when you attained certain levels of achievement or performed various services. You may have accumulated enough points to translate these points into awards. So influential has the Brownie organization been that the concept of “Brownie Points” has been transferred to general usage in our language. Earning brownie points has come to mean earning credit for doing the right thing in a wide range of endeavors. For example, we might say of someone, “she earned a few brownie points with her boss.” [Christine Ammer, Seeing Red or Tickled Pink (A Dutton Book, 1992).] It means she did something to win her boss’ favor. And that’s great! We all need our boss’ favor. But here is the message of today’s Gospel: you can’t build up brownie points with God. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


10) “You gave beautiful colors to the peacock and a lovely song to the nightingale.” A sparrow complained to Mother Nature, “You gave beautiful colors to the peacock and a lovely song to the nightingale, but I am plain and unnoticed. Why was I made to suffer?” “You were not made to suffer,” stated Mother Nature. “You suffer because you make the same foolish mistake as human beings. You compare yourself with others. Be yourself, for in that there is no comparison and no pain.” [Vernon Howard, Inspire Yourself (Grants Pass, OR: Four Star Books, Inc., 1975).] That’s easy to say, isn’t it, but hard to implement. Comedian Dennis Miller puts it this way: “Remember how good you felt when your neighbor’s house got struck by lightning because he got the new satellite dish?” (Ranting Again, New York: Doubleday, 1998.) (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


11) “The Fair Labor and Practice Act.” In 1938 the United States Congress passed a law called “The Fair Labor and Practice Act.” That law affects millions and tens of millions of lives to this very day because it established for the first time in our history a minimum wage. Believe it or not, it was set at 25 cents an hour. I can remember working when I was in high school in a Five & Dime Store for $1 an hour. The only reason he paid me that much was because he had to; he would tell me many times I was not worth that. That law was really based on two principles: First, everyone must make a minimum wage; second, there should be some semblance of equal pay for equal work. Well, believe it or not, Jesus in today’s Gospel parable tells a story in an interesting and strange way relating to both of those principles. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


12) Story of Maya Angelou’s Aunt Tee: “If I could just have a nicer car, or a nicer house, or a European vacation like the Joneses have, then I would be happy!” That is an illusion. If you doubt that, you need only consider the story of Maya Angelou’s Aunt Tee, a woman who worked 30 years as a maid and 30 years as a live-in housekeeper. On Saturdays, when she lived with a rich white couple in Bel-Air, she would cook pigs’ feet, greens and fried chicken, then invite some of her friends over for the evening. The chauffeur and the other housekeeper and her husband would come to eat, drink, dance, laugh and play cards. One night, during the middle of a bid whist game, the rich white couple knocked on their housekeeper’s door. They apologized for disturbing her, then got right to the point. Every Saturday night, they heard the joy and laughter coming from their housekeeper’s quarters, and they wanted to be part of it. Would she please leave her door ajar, they asked, so they could not only hear the joy, but see it, experience it, feel it? This was the warmth and happiness that their 14-room house, three cars, swimming pool and who knows how much money could never buy them. In her book, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now, Maya Angelou paints the scene like this: “I draw the picture of the wealthy couple standing in a darkened hallway, peering into a lighted room where Black servants were lifting their voices in merriment and comradery, and I realize that living well is an art which can be developed,” she writes. “Of course, you will need the basic talents to build upon: They are a love of life and ability to take great pleasure from small offerings, an assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift.” (Cited in “Value Judgements,” by Laura B. Randolph, Ebony, May 1996, p. 22.) Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he concluded his parable by saying, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


13) “All men are created equal.” Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address has been called America’s “greatest gathering of words.” Lincoln’s message was given over 130 years ago on the Civil War battlefield in Pennsylvania named Gettysburg. The burial of the Union dead was still underway on November 19, 1863, when Lincoln delivered his speech. We should not forget that it was a cemetery that the president had been invited to dedicate that day. What makes the Gettysburg Address the greatest speech in American history is the way in which Lincoln gave firm definition to that famous proposition written by Thomas Jefferson in the American Constitution, that “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

The power of President Lincoln’s speech is carried out in those five simple words — that all people are created equal. Now, we know, of course, that from the perspective of human judgment, people are certainly not created equal. We know that there are differences among us in personality, in intelligence, in natural talents, in bodily appearance and in physical strength and ability. We also know that some people are born, as they say, with a “silver spoon in their mouth.” These are the ones, of course, who are born with the advantages of wealth and privilege and family connections which open doors and make life comfortable and pleasant and enjoyable. No, the hard, cold truth is that we are not created with equal circumstances. But the point of the phrase, “all men are created equal,” is that this is indeed how God sees and loves, forever, all the men, women and children – every single human person — He has created, as His own, unique. individual child. God’s love is not withheld from any person, regardless of his or her circumstances. And we, as Christian people, are called to love each other with agape love just as our Father loves us. That is what our Father in Heaven calls us to do, and our obedience to Him is seen in the ways in which we treat all other human beings. In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus tells a parable which reveals a truth of God that is very disturbing to the conventional, human way of seeing the world. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


14) Life is a gift. I have a friend who faced sudden surgery several years ago. He didn’t have time to prepare emotionally for the surgery. He went to the doctor who sent him directly to the hospital and, in hours, he had open-heart surgery. This man was grateful for his surgery, his successful life, the extra years that had been given to him. But he also said that he was sad that he had not been able to express his love to his children before that critical moment of surgery. He had wanted to tell his children, but he didn’t. There wasn’t time. Months passed; years passed; a decade passed. One day, he was at his doctor’s office only to discover that he needed surgery again. Only, this time, he had two days to prepare. He had each child, now all adults, come into his hospital room and talk privately with him. He wanted each to know that he felt this past ten years of life were extra years that had been given to him by God. Not only the past ten years, but his whole life had been a gift of God, and they, his children, had been a total gift of God. He wanted them to know that God had given him his children, his wife, his family, his work, his faith in Christ, that God had given him an abundant life and that God would give him eternal life as well. He wanted his kids to know how he felt. He had wanted to tell his children these things ten years ago, and now he had a second chance to do it. And so, he told them, each of them, one by one. It was very emotional, and his wife left the room because she could not handle it. This man expressed what God wants. Deep down inside, all people have this attitude that life is a gift. Life itself, the abundant life, eternal life – it is all a gift. It is not that God owes us anything. That is what Jesus explains through the parable about equal wages. (Rev. Ed Markquart). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


15) We are of infinite worth just as we are. There was a thrilling story in our newspapers about a year ago. Rebel troops in the country of Colombia often finance their war against the government by kidnapping prominent citizens and holding them for ransom. There were 1,800 reported kidnapping cases in Colombia in 1997. Ed Leonard was one of those 1,800. Ed’s company, Terramundo Drilling of Ontario, Canada, had been drilling sites in Colombia when Ed was taken hostage by a group of armed rebels. For 105 days, Ed was held in various camps in the Andes Mountains. Then, on October 6, 1998, Ed Leonard came home. How did he gain his release? Someone had offered to take his place. That someone was Ed’s boss, Norbert Reinhart. Reinhart is the owner of Terramundo Drilling. When all other efforts failed to free Ed Leonard, Norbert Reinhart offered himself as a hostage in Ed’s place. (“Trading Places” by William Plummer and Lyndon Stambler, People, Nov. 30, 1998, pp. 196-198.) Reinhart himself was held hostage somewhere in the Andes Mountains until his release earlier this year. If you were Ed Leonard, wouldn’t you feel that you must be worth something to your company, if your boss would trade his life for your own? You know where I am leading, don’t you? You and I don’t have to prove our worth to our neighbors, to our family, to anybody in this world. The Boss has traded his life for ours. That is an idea too deep for us to ever comprehend, but if it says nothing else to us, it should say this: We are of infinite worth just as we are. That is why the landlord gave identical wages to all his workers in today’s Gospel parable. (Fr. Tony) 


16) Ten dollars or ten days in jail: James N. McCutcheon tells a wonderful story about the sense of justice of Fiorello LaGuardia, based on God’s mercy and generosity as expressed in today’s Gospel.  LaGuardia was Mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and during all of World War II.  Devoted New Yorkers called him “the Little Flower” because i) that is the English meaning of his Italian first name; ii) he was only five-foot-four; and iii) he always wore a carnation in his lapel.  He was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, raid speakeasies with the police department, and take entire orphanages to baseball games. Whenever the New York newspapers were on strike, he used to go on radio and read the Sunday “funnies” to the kids. One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city.  LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread.  She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her grandchildren were starving — but the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges.  “It’s a bad neighborhood, your Honor,” the man told the mayor.  “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.”  LaGuardia sighed.  He turned to the woman and said, “I’ve got to punish you…The law makes no exceptions – ten dollars or ten days in jail.”  But even as he pronounced the sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket.  He extracted a bill and tossed it into his familiar hat, saying, “Here’s the ten-dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore, I’m going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat.  Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.” The following day, the New York City newspapers reported that forty-seven dollars and fifty cents was turned over to the old woman who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren.  We wonder if that could happen today!  Our Scripture for this Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time is about the surprising nature of God’s grace, which many prefer to call “amazing grace.” (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


17) Who ever said life was fair? A million-dollar golf tournament was held which drew contestants from near and far. Many experienced golfers who had worked for years and years on their game came for their shot at the jackpot. The winner would be the closest to the pin. Golfer after golfer tried for the hole, and one skilled veteran made it within six inches. Not too shabby. Then he watched as a certain hacker came to the tee and swung the most horrible looking swing had ever seen. But luck was with this amateur. His ball bounced off a nearby photographers’ cart and landed just one inch from the hole. He won the contest. He won the money. Who ever said life was fair? There’s an old farmer’s saying about people who just stumble into good luck without working hard – “The dumber the farmer, the bigger the spuds”. It’s another way of saying, life is not fair. (preachrblog.blogspot.com). (Fr. Tony) 


18) A movie on labor problems: The 1954 movie On the Waterfront is considered a classic in filmmaking. It features Marlon Brando as longshoreman Terry Malloy, who gets locked in a brutal battle with the ruthless labour boss Johnny Friendly, played by Lee J. Cobb. The issue is the rights of the dockworkers. Not only are the longshoremen being exploited by the ship owners, but they are also being shaken down by their own union leaders. With the help of Fr. Barry (played by Karl Malden) and Edie Doyle (played by Eva Marie Saint) Terry Malloy undergoes a transformation after his brother is murdered by Johnny Friendly’s goons. From being a tough and uncaring street fighter, he becomes a crusader for his fellow workers and testifies for them to the Crime Commission against their corrupt labor bosses. Today’s Gospel also deals with a labor problem. At first it appears that the parable is setting up a model for management and labor relationships. Such is not the case. The parable by our Lord is more about the generosity of God than about working conditions. The story is more about the supreme goodness of God than about wage settlements. The punch line in the parable is the statement at the end: “I intend to give this man who was hired last the same pay. I am free to do as I please with my money, am I not? Or are you envious because I am generous?” In his book The Parables of Jesus, Joachim Jeremias says that today’s Gospel portrays the behavior of a large-hearted man who is compassionate and full of sympathy for the poor. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


19) The Little Flower and the criminal: Thérèse of Lisieux tells about a criminal being executed who stubbornly rejected all offers of spiritual help from the prison chaplain. She was concerned about him, and she decided she would pray to God, asking Him to a change the heart of this man before he died. An extraordinary thing happened that had a profound effect on her understanding of God’s love and mercy. Just before he was blindfolded, and placed beneath the guillotine, he snatched the crucifix from the chaplain’s hands, and kissed it reverently. He continued to clutch it, as he was put into position, and the blade fell. It is never too late for God. (Fr. Tony) 


20) “With all your money, you give me a Bible?”: A young man was getting ready to graduate from college. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer’s showroom and, as his father could well afford it, he told him that this was what he wanted. As Graduation Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of his graduation, his father called him into his private study. His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son and told him how much he loved him. He handed his son a beautifully wrapped gift box. Curious, but somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box, and found a lovely leather-bound Bible, with the young man’s name embossed in gold. Angrily, he raised his voice to his father, and said, “With all your money, you give me a Bible?” as he stormed out of the room, leaving the Bible behind. Many years passed, and the young man was successful in business. He had a beautiful home, and a wonderful family, but he realized his father was old, and he should call to see him. He had not seen him since that Graduation Day. Before he could make arrangements, he got a telegram, telling him his father had passed away, and willed all his possessions to his son, He needed to come home immediately and take care of things. When he arrived in his father’s house a sense of sadness and regret filled his heart, He began to search through his father’s papers when he saw the new Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With tears, he opened the Bible and began to leaf through it. His father had carefully underlined a verse, Matthew 7:11, “And you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give to those who ask him?” As he read these words, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a tag with the dealer’s name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had so desired. On the tag was the date of his graduation, and the words paid in full. I am so grateful that it’s never too late for God (Biblical IE). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


21) Mother Teresa’s Efficiency Strategy: What makes the saints so remarkable is that they are brilliant reflections of God’s extraordinary generosity. St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) was an eloquent example of this. When she visited the many convents that she had founded, even though she was the Superior General of the Order, she had a habit of getting up early on the last day of her visit (early being 4:00am or so), and washing the convent’s bathrooms before the rest of the nuns woke up. Fr Sebastian Vahakala, a priest connected to her Order, explains how he learned Christian generosity from her: “One day I was working at the home for the dying in Kalighat, Calcutta. “The Corporation Ambulance brought in a man. I looked at him and recognized him straightaway, as he had been to our home several times. “So, I told Blessed Teresa that there was no sense in taking him in again, as he would go out when he might feel a little better [he was taking advantage of their generosity]. “Blessed Teresa looked at me and said: ‘Brother Sebastian, does this man need your help now or not? It does not matter that he was here yesterday or not, or that he is going to come back again tomorrow. We do not have yesterday anymore, nor do we have tomorrow yet; all that we have is today to love God and serve the poor.'” That’s just a little glimpse of the kind of supernatural generosity that continuously overflows from God’s heart, towards each and every one of us. (Fr. Tony) 


22) St Thomas Aquinas’ Reward: It is this focus on God’s glory that has given all the saints such remarkable energy and courage. St. Thomas Aquinas was given perhaps the greatest intellect the world has ever known. A member of the first generation of Dominican friars, he lived in the 1200s and died in his 40s. He was so far above his peers in philosophical and theological knowledge and understanding that he was given the title “Angelic Doctor.” During his short life, he produced an entire library of works defending and explaining the Catholic Faith – a library which remains to this day the pillar of Catholic theology. His mind was so remarkable that he could write five books at the same time. He would sit at a table with five secretaries and dictate a paragraph to one of them. While one secretary wrote down that paragraph, he would dictate another paragraph of another book to another secretary – keeping all five scribbling for hours. Soon before he died, he was praying in a chapel, kneeling beneath a large wooden crucifix. The sacristan heard a strange noise and peeked into the chapel. He saw our Lord appear to the saint and say to him: “You have written well of me Thomas; what reward would you have?” To which the Angelic Doctor replied, “Nothing but yourself, Lord.” That was the secret to his incredible output, to the total development of his natural and supernatural potential: he was doing everything not for his own glory, but just for Christ. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


23) Late bloomers: There are many people who have gained greatness though they have embarked on their careers at various stages in their lives. A late bloomer is a person whose talents or capabilities are not visible to others until later than usual. Many writers have published their first major work late in life. Mary Wesley (British novelist) might be a classic example. She wrote two children’s books in her late fifties, and her writing career did not gain note until her first novel Jumping the Queue at 70. Doerr published her first novel when she was 74. Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first novel in when she was in her sixties. In philosophy, Mary Midgley wrote her first book when she was 56. Bill Traylor started drawing at age 83. Another painter, Alfred Wallis, began painting in his 60s. The champion “late bloomer,” however, has to be “Grandma Moses”! Born in 1860, Anna Mary Robertson Moses, the American folk artist began painting seriously at the age of 78 (1938) and continued until her death at 101, in 1961. — In the history of salvation, too, we see the chosen people were called at different stages in their lives. Samuel was called, when he was a young boy. David was called in his youth. The sons of Zebedee were young men when they received the invitation to join Jesus. Joan of Arc was young maiden when she was entrusted with a great mission. But the first of the Patriarchs, Abraham, was seventy-five years old when he was called by the Lord God to leave Haran the land of his kin, and go “to a land I will show you” — and he obeyed at once, starting Salvation History proper for all of us with that choice. Simon Peter was an older man when he was chosen by Jesus. Saint Ambrose was called in his 40s. From today’s reading of the Gospel of Matthew, we learn that God does not call everybody at the same time. Some are called early in life as the early laborers were called, having received their Baptism as infants. Some were called as teenagers. Some were called during their married life and others, much later in life. And some are like the laborers who were called around five o’clock; their conversion took place at the last hour, like the thief on the cross. (Fr. Bobby Jose). (Fr. Tony) 


24) Generosity of a lottery winner: Allen and Violet Large, a loving elderly couple from Nova Scotia, Canada, won $11.2 million in the lottery. But instead of living happily ever after in luxury, they decided to give their winnings away. Being content with their average, peaceful lifestyle, they decided that the money would bring them unnecessary stress. They helped their family with some of the money and then divided the rest of the money between churches, organizations fighting cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, cemeteries, hospitals, also their local fire department. Their neighbors found difficult to understand them. They could never imagine such an act of generous giving. But the couple was not disturbed; were they not free to use their own gifts as they wanted? Today’s parable teaches us about the generosity of God. (Fr. Bobby Jose). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


25) “We waited for you!” According to an ancient legend, Christ assembled the eleven apostles in Heaven and asked them to celebrate the Last Supper with him. They readily agreed. On their arrival, Jesus welcomed them and asked them to take their seats. They were surprised to find that he had set thirteen seats. Even though everything was ready he refused to start. He waited and waited until finally Judas came in. On seeing him, Christ rose from his seat and went to meet him. He kissed him and said, “We have waited for you.” The story may sound far-fetched. But does it do anything more than echo that other story we find in the Gospel of Luke — the story of how, as he hung on the cross, Jesus prayed for his executioners? By word and example Jesus shows us how to be generous with others. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


26) Amazing Grace The man who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace had been a slave trader and had taken part in the most inhuman and cruel treatment of people. He called himself a wretch who deserved nothing but contempt and punishment but instead found himself pardoned and raised to a position of trust and responsibility. How else could he describe it except as Amazing Grace? Many people seem to feel poor always, because they never give themselves to the cause of God, whereas, people like John Calvin felt that his life was always rich because his one purpose in life was to serve the Lord. Therefore, when the physician told him that he must cease from working so much or he would die because he had a complication of a painful disease, he replied, “Would you have my Master come and find me loitering?” No servant of God can get tired of serving the Lord. He may be tired in the service, but never tired of it. (Vima Dasan in His Word Lives; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) 


27) Five aces for God: In her wonderful collection of poetry called, The Awful Rowing Toward God, Anne Sexton examines her life like someone in a rowboat rowing against the stream of life, encountering hazards along the way, and finally docking at the island of God’s home. The concluding poem in the book is called “The Rowing Endeth.” In it she sees herself called by God’s great laughter to join Him for a game of poker. When the cards are dealt, she is surprised and thrilled. She has a royal straight flush. She will trounce God and win for herself whatever prizes God has brought to the table. In great excitement, she slaps down her cards, claiming her winnings. Nothing can beat this hand! But God only laughs, a great, rolling, joyful exuberance that energizes everything around. In rich good humor, with no malice at all, God throws down his cards. Five aces! That’s impossible! But there it is. And when Anne loses to God, she knows that really she wins. For God is not stingy with his wealth or his earnings. There are never any losers when they sit at table with God. God’s laughter is always without malice or one-upmanship. This is the Gospel according to Jesus’ parable. In spite of our good fortunes or savvy playing skills or sheer hard work, we never really win at the game of life when we play it by our own rules. But if God is bending them in the direction of grace, something wonderful always happens. (Wayne Brouwer, Political Religion, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.) (Fr. Tony) 


28) “Monkeys and dogs want to see justice done.”: It seems that even monkeys, if they could read, would get indignant about this parable of the workers in the vineyard. In the Australian newspaper, The Melbourne Age, there was an intriguing report from the University of Atlanta in the U. S. called: “Monkeys want to see justice done.” At the University of Atlanta, researchers have been testing capuchin monkeys. They gave them the task of picking up a small granite stone and bringing it to the researcher within one minute. If they were successful, they were rewarded with the wage of a slice of cucumber. The scheme worked well. It was happy lab situation as long as each monkey received the same wage. This turned sour when the researchers varied the pattern. They tried giving one monkey a grape for its reward. Indignation broke out. First the others withheld their labor, and later they even took to throwing away the cucumber and the granite stone. It had offended their sense of justice. Dogs are also prone to bouts of envy and refuse to play if they are not treated fairly, scientists have found. Experiments led by Friederike Range at the University of Vienna tested how pairs of dogs reacted when each was given a different reward – either a piece of bread, some sausage, or nothing – in return for offering a paw to researchers. In one of the tests the first dog was given a piece of bread as a reward, while the second received nothing. When the test was repeated a number of times, the dog that went without quickly began to display what appeared to be envy and stopped cooperating with researchers. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2008/dec/08/dogs-envy-fairness-social-behaviour). That’s almost human, isn’t it? We are happy with our lot until we see someone in a similar situation who is better off. Then we cry foul! We want to go on strike and demand an end to such monkey business. (Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com. Adapted from a sermon by Bruce Prewer). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

29) Generosity Is the Secret to Our Joy: There is an old rabbinic parable about a farmer that had two sons. As soon as they were old enough to walk, he took them to the fields, and he taught them everything that he knew about growing crops and raising animals. When he got too old to work, the two boys took over the chores of the farm and when the father died, they had found their working together so meaningful that they decided to keep their partnership. So each brother contributed what he could and during every harvest season, they would divide equally what they had corporately produced. Across the years the elder brother never married, stayed an old bachelor. The younger brother did marry and had eight wonderful children. Some years later when they were having a wonderful harvest, the old bachelor brother thought to himself one night, “My brother has ten mouths to feed. I only have one. He really needs more of his harvest than I do, but I know he is much too fair to renegotiate. I know what I’ll do. In the dead of the night when he is already asleep, I’ll take some of what I have put in my barn and I’ll slip it over into his barn to help him feed his children. At the very time he was thinking down that line, the younger brother was thinking to himself, “God has given me these wonderful children. My brother has not been so fortunate. He really needs more of this harvest for his old age than I do, but I know him. He’s much too fair. He’ll never renegotiate. I know what I’ll do. In the dead of the night when he’s asleep, I’ll take some of what I’ve put in my barn and slip it over into his barn.” And so one night when the moon was full, as you may have already anticipated, those two brothers came face to face, each on a mission of generosity. The old rabbi said that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, yet a gentle rain began to fall. You know what it was? God weeping for joy because two of his children had gotten the point. Two of his children had come to realize that generosity is the deepest characteristic of the holy and, because we are made in God’s image, our being generous is the secret to our joy as well. Life is not fair, thank God! It’s not fair because it’s rooted in grace. (John Claypool, Life Isn’t Fair, Thank God!). (Fr. Tony) 


30) “Thank you, my Lord, for what you’ve done for us today!” There’s a play by Timothy Thompson based on this parable in which he depicts two brothers vying for work. John is strong and capable; Philip is just as willing but has lost a hand in an accident. When the landowner comes, John is taken in the first wave of workers, and as he labors in the field, he looks up the lane for some sign of Philip. Other workers are brought to the field, but Philip is not among them. John is grateful to have the work but feels empty knowing that Philip is just as needful as he. Finally, the last group of workers arrive, and Philip is among them. John is relieved to know that Philip will get to work at least one hour. But, as the drama unfolds, and those who came last get paid a full days’ wages, John rejoices, knowing that Philip – his brother – will have the money necessary to feed his family. When it comes his turn to stand before the landowner and receive his pay, instead of complaining as the others, John throws out his hand and says with tears in his eyes, “Thank you, my Lord, for what you’ve done for us today!” God’s justice arises out of a sense of community in which we see the “eleventh hour” workers as our brothers and sisters whose needs are every bit as important as our own. (Philip W. McLarty, “The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.”). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


31) The Worker’s Pledge: Washington Gladden, a pioneer for social justice, realized that changing outward conditions will not bring about a better society unless men’s attitude toward their work is also changed. So, he wrote what he called “The Worker’s Pledge” in which he said: “I will not be a sponge or parasite. I will give an honest equivalent for what I get. I want no man’s money for which I have not rendered a full return. I want no wages that I have not earned. If I work for any man or any company or any institution, I will render a full, ample, generous service. If I work for the city or the state or the nation, I will give my best thought, my best effort, my most conscientious and efficient endeavor. If I can give a little more than I get every time, in that shall be my happiness. The great commonwealth of human society shall not be a loser through me.” This is the spirit that has built our country, and when that spirit declines, America is on the decline. There is no substitute for hard, honest, conscientious work under God. (T.A. Kantonen, Good News for All Seasons, CSS Publishing Co., Inc). (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20


32) Graciousness of God’s mercy and his forgiving love: After many years of general prison ministry, in 1998 I was asked to begin ministry cell-to-cell on Florida’s death row and solitary confinement. Florida has the third largest death row in the U.S., with over 370 men and has over 2,000 men in long-term solitary confinement in the two prisons at which I serve as a Catholic lay chaplain. On behalf of the Catholic Church, the bishops of Florida, and under the pastoral supervision of my priest and bishop, I go cell-to-cell in ministry to the men inside. Also, I serve as a spiritual advisor for executions. The family of the condemned is not allowed to be present then. My wife ministers to the families during the execution. We also make ourselves available to minister together to the families of murder victims. We do these things as volunteers on behalf of our Church. We support our family and ourselves through our separate work. Although I can bring Communion to the Catholics, our priests and bishop come frequently in order to offer the sacrament of confession, the anointing of the sick and, in case of executions, the last rites. For those who are only just coming into the Church, Baptism and Confirmation are also made available. In eight years, my wife and I have god-parented or sponsored ten death row inmates into the Church. When I am on death row, there are ten steel barred doors, a quarter mile of electrified fences and razor wire, and a mountain of steel and concrete between me and the front door of the prison. The death house, which houses the execution chamber and to which a man is moved when his death warrant is signed by the governor, is at the end of the hall. His cell in the death house is less than twenty feet from the execution room. One with eyes only for this world might ask: Of what use are the Sacraments to a man in such a fix? And, in particular, what is the point of confession in his predicament?

I can testify to you that the power of the Sacrament of confession and of the Holy Spirit is greater than the darkness of death now, even of the death house. There was a man who desired to become a Catholic because of the influence of Pope John Paul II. After a year of preparation for entry into the Catholic Church, he was suddenly scheduled for execution. His execution date turned out to be just days after the death of John Paul II. Our Catholic governor even considered delaying the execution out of respect for the pontiff. The morning before his execution, the Bishop came to the death house to administer his first confession, his first Communion and his confirmation. This was done with him standing in a narrow cage called a holding cell, with shackles upon his ankles and chains on his wrists. When the bishop pronounced the words of absolution and then of confirmation, his whole body jerked as though he had been jolted by electricity. He even began to fall back against the rear of the cage, in a manner called resting in the spirit. The guards who were watching were astonished. They said that for a moment he became luminous. The next day, during his last hours in the death house, he told me that John Paul II had visited him during that moment and told him that Jesus would come for him at the moment of his death. Nothing anyone could say could dissuade him from this belief. A few hours before the execution, the warden came down to his cell with a message from the mother of the victim of the crime. She had asked the warden to inform the condemned man that she forgave him and bore him no ill will. The reconciliation offered by the sacrament of confession had been actualized on this side of the great divide between the temporal and the eternal. He died in peace, at one with God. {Lectio Divina. cf. Dale Recinella, “It Is Never Too Late” in 101 Inspirational Stories of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, ed. Patricia Proctor (Spokane: Franciscan Monastery of Saint Clare, 2006), p. 187-189.] (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/L/20 




2.     From Sermons.com 


 One day a rich young ruler came enthusiastically running up to Jesus and asked: "What must I do to be saved?" Jesus answered: Keep the law. "This I have done from my youth up," came the reply. Yet one thing do you lack said Jesus. Go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor. Then come follow me. We are told that the young man walked away sorrowfully, for he had great wealth. Concluded the Master: It will be hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.


 The disciples had been watching the dynamics of this happening and they were quite disturbed. Jewish tradition had always taught that God had especially blessed rich men and that is why he was rich. In their way of thinking, if a wealthy man could not receive salvation, then how could a poor man have any hope? They asked of Jesus: who then can be saved?

 It reminds me of the movie Fiddler on the Roof. The poor Jewish milkman who lives in early 1900 Russia sings what he would do "if I were a rich man." His wife reminds him: money is a curse. He immediately shouts up to heaven: curse me God, curse me. Jesus has just turned away a wealthy man, and in the Jewish way of thinking it doesn't make any sense. In fact, I am not sure how many Methodist preachers would have the courage to do it. My entire ministry I have been waiting for a sugar daddy to come along.


 But it was Simon Peter who drew the question even more clearly into focus for us. He asked what is on the mind of every one of us, only we are too sophisticated to ask it and too self-righteous to admit that we even think it. Peter didn't have any problem with that. He simply laid his cards out on the table. He said, "Lord, we have given up everything, riches and all, to follow you." What then shall we have?" In others words, what's in this for us Lord. How do we stand to profit? Where's the payoff? 


In response to Peter's question, Jesus told a story. It was the harvest time of the year...


In a world more inclined to take up the sword than take up the cross, let's begin today with a recognition of the power of the cross, the most recognizable symbol of Christianity. When you think of Islam you think of a crescent, even though technically Islam does not have a symbol - the crescent is the symbol of Pakistan. But still, when you think of Islam, you think crescent. When you think of Judaism, you think star of David. When you think of Christianity, you think . . . cross. 


The Logos has a logo . . . two lines that intersect to form a cross. Not a plus symbol. A cross, the symbol of the depths of human degradation and sin, but also the symbol of the heights of divine love and forgiveness. The cross is a paradoxical symbol of death that can be crossed out with life, a symbol of the crossing of opposites: transcendence and immanence, the vertical and the horizontal, a symbol that God does God's best in our worst. 


This is glaringly evident in today's epistle lesson, part of the rich prison literature of the Christian tradition. Some of the most beautiful and exquisite literature ever written comes out of prison...think Cervantes, Voltaire, Diderot, Dostoevsky, Defoe, John Donne, Henry David Thoreau, Oscar Wilde, Jack London. Christianity's prison literature includes classics like Martin Luther's translation of the New Testament into German, John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Letters and Papers from Prison," Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham City Jail," Nelson Mandela's "Conversations with Myself."


 Today's text is from one of the "prison epistles"- Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon - so named because they were written by the apostle Paul during his incarceration in Rome...


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God Has Five Aces


In her wonderful collection of poetry called, The Awful Rowing Toward God, Anne Sexton examines her life like someone in a canoe rowing against the stream of life, encountering hazards along the way, and finally docking at the island of God's home. The concluding poem in the book is called "The Rowing Endeth." In it she sees herself called by God's great laughter to join him for a game of poker. When the cards are dealt, she is surprised and thrilled. She has a royal straight flush. She will trounce God and win for herself whatever prizes God has brought to the table. In great excitement she slaps down her cards, claiming her winnings. Nothing can beat this hand!


But God only laughs, a great, rolling, joyful exuberance that energizes everything around. In rich good humor, with no malice at all, God throws down his cards. Five aces! That's impossible! But there it is. And when Anne loses to God, she knows that really she wins. For God is not stingy with his wealth or his earnings. There are never any losers when they sit at table with God. God's laughter is always without malice or one-upmanship.  


This is the gospel according to Jesus' parable. In spite of our good fortunes or savvy playing skills or sheer hard work, we never really win at the game of life when we play it by our own rules. But if God is bending them in the direction of grace, something wonderful always happens.


Wayne Brouwer, Political Religion, CSS Publishing Company, Inc. 

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 Generosity Is the Secret to Our Joy 


There is an old rabbinic parable about a farmer that had two sons. As soon as they were old enough to walk, he took them to the fields and he taught them everything that he knew about growing crops and raising animals. When he got too old to work, the two boys took over the chores of the farm and when the father died, they had found their working together so meaningful that they decided to keep their partnership. So each brother contributed what he could and during every harvest season, they would divide equally what they had corporately produced. Across the years the elder brother never married, stayed an old bachelor. The younger brother did marry and had eight wonderful children. Some years later when they were having a wonderful harvest, the old bachelor brother thought to himself one night, "My brother has ten mouths to feed. I only have one. He really needs more of his harvest than I do, but I know he is much too fair to renegotiate. I know what I'll do. In the dead of the night when he is already asleep, I'll take some of what I have put in my barn and I'll slip it over into his barn to help him feed his children.


At the very time he was thinking down that line, the younger brother was thinking to himself, "God has given me these wonderful children. My brother hasn't been so fortunate. He really needs more of this harvest for his old age than I do, but I know him. He's much too fair. He'll never renegotiate. I know what I'll do. In the dead of the night when he's asleep, I'll take some of what I've put in my barn and slip it over into his barn." And so one night when the moon was full, as you may have already anticipated, those two brothers came face to face, each on a mission of generosity. The old rabbi said that there wasn't a cloud in the sky, a gentle rain began to fall. You know what it was? God weeping for joy because two of his children had gotten the point. Two of his children had come to realize that generosity is the deepest characteristic of the holy and because we are made in God's image, our being generous is the secret to our joy as well. Life is not fair, thank God! It's not fair because it's rooted in grace.


John Claypool, Life Isn't Fair, Thank God!

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 We Need Great Trust in God 


Johnny Carson tells a story about the time when, as the host of the Tonight Show, he made a joke about there being a toilet paper shortage in the city. 


The next day there really was a shortage because all the viewers who had watched his show ran out afterward and bought up extra toilet paper just in case. There was no trust in the fact that people, if they chose to work together, could ration out the toilet paper to make sure there would be enough for everyone. People panicked and grabbed not what they needed, but more than they needed, leaving others with nothing at all. When people allow their lives to be directed by this kind of fear and self-love, then they find out when they die and finally have the opportunity to enter into a heavenly community, that it is not really what they want at all.


They shrink back. You see, you need to have a great deal of trust in God and the goodness of others in order to buy into the concept of heaven, and these people don't. They can't anymore, because they have learned here on earth that you take what you can get when you can get it, because if you don't, no one else is going to look out for you. Heaven to these people is a very unsettling place.


Our landowner is like the kingdom of heaven because he seeks to include everyone, he gives freely to everyone so that they each have as much as they need, and he holds up a mirror to the deepest part of our being that asks the question, "are we okay with that?"


Sarah Buteux, The Heavenly Landowner

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 Embrace the Sense of Community 


There's a play by Timothy Thompson based on this parable in which he depicts two brothers vying for work. John is strong and capable; Philip is just as willing but has lost a hand in an accident. When the landowner comes, John is taken in the first wave of workers, and as he labors in the field he looks up the lane for some sign of Philip. Other workers are brought to the field, but Philip is not among them. John is grateful to have the work, but feels empty knowing that Philip is just as needful as he. Finally, the last group of workers arrive, and Philip is among them. John is relieved to know that Philip will get to work at least one hour. But, as the drama unfolds, and those who came last get paid a full days' wages, John rejoices, knowing that Philip - his brother - will have the money necessary to feed his family. When it comes his turn to stand before the landowner and receive his pay, instead of complaining as the others, John throws out his hand and says with tears in his eyes, "Thank you, my lord, for what you've done for us today!"


God's justice arises out of a sense of community in which we see the "eleventh hour" workers as our brothers and sisters whose needs are every bit as important as our own.


Philip W. McLarty, The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

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 The Worker's Pledge 


Washington Gladden, a pioneer for social justice, realized that changing outward conditions will not bring about a better society unless men's attitude toward their work is also changed. So he wrote what he called "The Worker's Pledge" in which he said: 


"I will not be a sponge or parasite. I will give an honest equivalent for what I get. I want no man's money for which I have not rendered a full return. I want no wages that I have not earned. If I work for any man or any company or any institution, I will render a full, ample, generous service. If I work for the city or the state or the nation, I will give my best thought, my best effort, my most conscientious and efficient endeavor. If I can give a little more than I get every time, in that shall be my happiness. The great commonwealth of human society shall not be a loser through me." 


This is the spirit that has built our country, and when that spirit declines, America is on the decline. There is no substitute for hard, honest, conscientious work under God. 


T.A. Kantonen, Good News for All Seasons, CSS Publishing Co., Inc.

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 Monkey Business


It seems that even monkeys, if they could read, would get indignant about this parable. 


In the Australian newspaper "The Melbourne Age," there was an intriguing report from the University of Atlanta called: "Monkeys want to see justice done."


At the University of Atlanta, researchers have been testing capuchin monkeys. They gave them the task of picking up a small granite stone and bringing it to the researcher within one minute. If they were successful, they were rewarded with the wage of a slice of cucumber. The scheme worked well. It was happy lab situation as long as each monkey received the same wage. This turned sour when the researchers varied the pattern. They tried giving one monkey a grape for its reward. Indignation broke out. First the others withheld their labor, and later they even took to throwing away the cucumber and the granite stone. 


It had offended their sense of justice. That's almost human isn't it? We are happy with our lot until we see someone in a similar situation who is better off. Then we cry foul! We want to go on strike and demand an end to such monkey business. 


Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com. Adapted from a sermon by Bruce Prewer.

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 The Rules of a Family


The parable of the vineyard workers (Matt. 20) offends our sense of fairness. Why should everyone get equal pay for unequal work? Back in Ontario when the apples ripened, Mom would sit all seven of us down, Dad included, with pans and paring knives until the mountain of fruit was reduced to neat rows of filled canning jars. She never bothered keeping track of how many we did, though the younger ones undoubtedly proved more of a nuisance than a help: cut fingers, squabbles over who got which pan, apple core fights. But when the job was done, the reward for everyone was the same: the largest chocolate-dipped cone money could buy. A stickler might argue it wasn't quite fair since the older ones actually peeled apples. But I can't remember anyone complaining about it. 


A family understands it operates under a different set of norms than a courtroom. In fact, when the store ran out of ice cream and my younger brother had to make do with a Popsicle, we felt sorry for him despite his lack of productivity (he'd eaten all the apples he'd peeled that day--both of them). God wants all his children to enjoy the complete fullness of eternal life. No true child of God wants it any other way. 


Robert De Moor

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 Grace and Generosity 


Dr. William Power, a professor at Southern Methodist University, describes an experience he had in Sunday school when he was a boy. His teacher was trying to explain to him and his rowdy friends the meaning of grace, but wasn't getting very far. She tried definitions and abstractions, to no avail. Finally, she realized something the boys had known from the start. She was not connecting. She was not getting through to them. They didn't have the foggiest notion what she was talking about. 


So she took a deep breath and tried again: "Look boys, grace is the break you get when you don't deserve it. That's the simple explanation. But you won't really understand it till you experience it." 


James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not to Be True, Dimensions, 1994, p. 95.

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 Fairness


 This parable goes against the business mentality that dominates our lives. We have always been taught: You get out of something directly in proportion to that which you put in it. Yet, that is not what happened in Jesus' story. In our way of thinking, the laborers who came to the field late got something for nothing. This parable challenges us not to look upon the Kingdom of God, or the church, as a business community. Yet, that is difficult for us to do, because that is our point of reference. What do you think would happen if a person joined the church this morning and immediately after receiving the vows of profession of faith I suggested to the congregation that he or she be nominated as the next chairperson of the Administrative Board. What do you think the reaction would be? Well, I think I know what the reaction would be. The laity would protest as loudly as Simon Peter is protesting to Jesus.


You see, we live in a world of tenure and seniority and it goes against our grain when we hear Jesus say: The first shall be last and the last shall be first. God's grace is not based upon what is fair, but rather what helps.


Sermon Illustrations

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 Jesus Was Just Wrong


One Sunday several years ago when I preached on this text, a church member came to me after the service and said, "You know, preacher, there are parts of the Bible that are difficult to abide, and other parts that aren't. The story you preached on today is one that I find totally offensive! It's just not fair to pay everyone the same wage when some have worked hard and some have hardly worked. Jesus was just wrong about that. I think you should have preached on something less offensive." The following Sunday, I preached about the prodigal son. 


Johnny Dean, Exasperating Grace

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 100 Points!

A man dies and goes to heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter says, "Here's how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you've done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in." Okay, " the man says, "I was married to the same women for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart." That's wonderful," says St. Peter, "that's worth three points." Three points?"


He says. "Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service." Terrific!" say's St. Peter. "That's certainly worth a point." "One point? Well I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans." Fantastic, that's good for two more points," he says. "Two points!" 


The man cries. "At this rate the only way to get into heaven is by the grace of God!" St. Peter smiled. "There's your 100 points! Come on in!" 


Traditional

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Grace and Generosity


A large prosperous downtown church had three mission churches under its care that it had started. On the first Sunday of the New Year all the members of the mission churches came to the city church for a combined Communion service. In those mission churches, which were located in the slums of the city, were some outstanding cases of conversions--thieves, burglars, and so on--but all knelt side by side at the Communion rail. 


On one such occasion the pastor saw a former burglar kneeling beside a judge of the Supreme Court of England--it was the judge who had sent him to jail where he had served seven years. After his release this burglar had been converted and became a Christian worker. Yet, as they knelt there, the judge and the former convict neither one seemed to be aware of the other...