Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
September 24, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.








O God, who founded all the commands of your sacred Law
upon love of you and of our neighbor,
grant that, by keeping your precepts,
we may merit to attain eternal life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading Is 55:6-9

Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.

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


R/. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.

Every day will I bless you,

and I will praise your name forever and ever.

Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;

his greatness is unsearchable. R/.

The LORD is gracious and merciful,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

The LORD is good to all

and compassionate toward all his works. R/.

The LORD is just in all his ways

and holy in all his works.

The LORD is near to all who call upon him,

to all who call upon him in truth. R/.

Second Reading Phil 1:20c-24,27a

Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.  If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose.  I am caught between the two.  I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Alleluia cf. Acts 16:14b


Gospel Mt 20:1-16a 

Jesus told his disciples this parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  Going out about nine o'clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.' So they went off. 

And he went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise.  Going out about five o'clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' They answered, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard.' When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.' When those who had started about five o'clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. 

And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, 'These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day's burden and the heat.' He said to one of them in reply, 'My friend, I am not cheating you.  Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?' Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.

Catena Nova

The Gospel story about the vineyard workers is appropriate to this time of year, the season of the earthly grape harvest. But there is also another harvest, the spiritual one, at which God rejoices in the fruits of his vineyard.... At the end of the world all Christians, called at the eleventh hour, will receive the joy of resurrection....Although through diversity of merit some will shine more brilliantly than others, in the possession of eternal life there will be equality. …Whatever may be the individual’s degree of glory, each one will live in it eternally.  (St. Augustine).

Because one person is called to the good life in childhood, another in youth, another in adulthood, another in later life, another in old age, the labourers are as it were called at different hours to the Vineyard. Therefore, dearly beloved, look to your manner of living, and see whether even now you are labourers of God (Pope St Gregory the Great).

How different persons will then seem, from what they seem now! How will the last be first, and the first last! Then those whom the world looked up to, will be brought low, and those who were little esteemed, will be exalted. Then will it be found who are the real movers in the world's affairs, those who sustained the cause of the Church or who influenced the fortunes of empires, were not the great and powerful, not those whose names are known in the world, but the humble despised followers of the Lamb, the meek saint, the man full of prayer and good works whom the world passed by; the hidden band of saintly witnesses, whose voice day by day ascended to Christ; the sufferers who seemed to be living for nothing; the poor whom the proud world thought but an offence and a nuisance (St. John Henry Newman).

It makes no difference whether people are good or evil in the sight of God, because they are all in need of God's mercy. It makes no difference whether they have laboured long or briefly in the vineyard, the first is as much in need of divine grace as the last. It is because the first are so greatly tempted to forget this that they frequently become last and the last first (Reinhold Niebuhr).

Parables aim to subvert our old consciousness and offer us a way through by utterly reframing our worldview. So often the biblical text is not a transformative document and does not bring about a “new creation,” because we pull it inside of our own security systems and what we call “common sense.” At that point, no divine breakthrough is possible. Frankly speaking, much of Scripture, then, has become largely harmless and forgettable (Richard Rohr).

I think all of us identify with the grumbling workers. The master sees the problem and seems to shrug his shoulders and say with a divine smile: “This is how I operate. Get used to it.” God’s economy takes a lot of getting used to. We are wise to start practicing now (Andrew Marr).

Jesus wants to make us contemplate the gaze of that landowner: the gaze with which he looks upon each of the labourers searching for work and calls them to go to his vineyard. It is a gaze which is filled with attention, kindness. It is a gaze which calls, invites one to get up and begin a journey because he wants life for each of us; he wants a full, committed life, safe from emptiness and inertia. God excludes no one and wants each of us to achieve his or her fullness. This is the love of our God, of our God who is Father (Pope Francis).




A bit of a stir happened on social media this week caused by Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo Nazario who posted some pictures of his baptism in a Catholic Church in Sao Paulo at age 46.  He entered the Lord's vineyard much like the workers in the parable at a later hour than most of us and will have spent less time working there, but no matter.  As St. Augustine says when it comes to the reward of our labors, "all will have the same share…in the possession of eternal life there will be equality. What is endless for all will not be longer for one and shorter for another. What has no bounds will have none either for you or for me….where eternal life is concerned there can be no question of more or less for anyone" (Sermon 87) I can't imagine anyone petty enough to begrudge this to Ronaldo.  When it comes to spiritual matters I think most of us are willing to allow the owner of the vineyard his wonted generosity with no cries of injustice.  Almost a million likes on Instagram seem to agree!
But when it comes to justice this side of eternity, well, our judgements might just beg to quibble.  For justice in earthly matters is a funny thing.  And hard to measure.  It often means someone gets what they deserve.  Which is true — justice is about equity.  That's why its symbol is a scale — where things are nicely balanced.  But justice is often confused with vengeance —  most often meant for criminal offenders.  Justice is "served," they say when a defendant gets what's coming to him or her.  And however much lip service we might pay to mercy, some kind of moral compass inside of us recoils if  their "just deserts" aren't meted out. 
 But that's all on the debit side of the ledger.  There's another side to justice, isn't there?  And that's what's owed to us in justice for some benefit we've provided to others.   That usually involves money — whether just compensation or fair prices.  There's nothing worse than feeling cheated out of something that's rightfully owed us, or when we've overpaid for some product or service.  Every time I go shopping these days I feel ripped off by merchants' price gouging and their blaming it on "inflation."  But when it comes to a just wage for workers in the face of corporate greed I'm all for the strikes underway in the entertainment and automotive industries.
 Of course, what really rankles our sense of justice on the other side of the ledger is when people get what they don't deserve.  And there's no shortage of outrage in the news about such freeloaders looking for a free ride at taxpayers' expense.  Beginning with the proverbial "free lunch."  I got an earful recently from someone upset about New York State providing free school meals to everyone regardless of income.  Add to that the children of asylum seekers who by law must be enrolled in school — and who are being housed at public expense along with their parents.         
Then there's the federal judge who ruled this month that DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — which protects people from deportation who were brought here as children by unauthorized immigrants — was unconstitutional.  So the future of a half-million "dreamers," as they are called, is once again in limbo.  And finally, the rate of child poverty in the United States doubled last year.  Why?  Because enhanced tax credits and other programs authorized during the pandemic have expired.  All these things are considered "unjust" by a lot of people because, after all, they didn't earn them and therefore do not deserve them. 
But let's look now at divine justice as described in the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.  We'll begin with the prophet Isaiah's warning: My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts (I).  And I can't think of any better proof than in the parable about everyone getting paid the same no matter how long they worked.  Imagine if that were part of the negotiations going on in Hollywood and Detroit!
Like with most parables, however, there's an element of exaggeration designed to make a point by way of contrast.  But we have to be careful not to make this an excuse for disregarding the heart of the teaching — which in this case is the clincher at the end, Am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?  Are you envious because I am generous? (G)

That ought to challenge every tendency to stinginess, grievance and resentment toward those we feel are getting more than their fair share, while leaving the rest of us shortchanged.  Much like the oft-repeated saying, the last will be first, and the first will be last (G), it should serve as a warning about who will be first in line — and last — when the kingdom of God appears.  In the meantime, Paul's advice is always timely for both private and public policy: Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ. (II). Who lives and reigns, world without end.  Amen.


Intercessions (Joe Milner; The Sunday Website)

For all who are seeking God: that the Spirit of God will lead them into an encounter with God and open them to God’s presence and action in their lives.

For freedom from envy: that we may appreciate the gifts and blessings that others receive and rejoice in their success.

For all who are working to aid those in need, particularly rescue workers: that God will give them strength, wisdom, and protection from harm.

For all who have been cheated out of their wages: that God will bring justice for those who have been defrauded and help them in their attempts to reclaim what they are justly owed.

For all who are unemployed or underemployed: that God will open opportunities for them to use their gifts and talents for the good of society and not allow their time and energy to be idled away.

For an end to violence in local communities: that God will open the hearts of local leaders to address the injustices in their communities and promote dialogue and new understanding amongst citizens.

For greater stewardship of creation: that God will impel our hearts to oppose the misuse of earth's resources and empower us to work tirelessly to protect the magnificence of nature for future generations.

God most high, your ways are not our ways, for your kindness is lavished equally upon all. Teach us to welcome your mercy toward others, even as we hope to receive mercy ourselves. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen. (ICEL; 1998)

Offertory Hymn (Roc O’Connor)

Seek the Lord, while He may be found;
call to Him while he is still near.

Today is the day, and now the proper hour
to forsake our sinful lives and turn to the Lord.

As high as the sky is above the earth,
so high above our ways, the ways of the Lord.

Finding the Lord, let us cling to Him.
His words, his ways lead us to life.

Someday we'll live in the house of God,
Gaze on His face and praise His name.

Communion Antiphon


Closing Hymn 


Let justice descend, O heavens like dew from above.
Like gentle rain let the sky drop it down.
Let earth open up
and salvation bud forth.

Clear a path to the suffering lands, a highway for our God.

Construct the road for the advent of hope— a way to bring love near.
Bring low the mountains that bar God’s way,
of pride and greed and power.
Greet the poor in their valleys of pain—  build up their weakness.
This is the dawn of the new age, the sun of justice breaks through the night.
Rising in hearts at once wounded and healed—earth’s liberator comes!