Meditations by Msgr. Liptak

 

Msgr. Liptakweekly gospel meditations

 

TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

The Mature Christian
Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1:20-24, 27; Matthew 20:1-16

 

 

 

Aim: to show how the mature Christian relates to the things of' this world,- without attachment, with simplicity and generosity.

"My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways," explains the Lord through the Second Isaiah in today's First Reading. While man must seek God, God's ways are beyond man's full understanding. Yet God's ways must be learned by man. God is transcendent, the eternal Other; yet he is close to us.

Today's Gospel concretizes these paradoxes. As God's ways are not man's ways, God's mathematics is not man's mathematics.

Regarding the Gospel, remember that it is a parable; our Lord's words about justice should not be interpreted according to the letter. Jesus had no intention of preaching that we--his followers-can ignore the dictates of justice. On the contrary, we must deem justice a sacred imperative.

In fact, today's Gospel holds many levels of meaning. One, surely, pertains to God's grace and salvation. We learn that God showers abundant graces on persons who, in our fallible estimation, have not lived especially good lives, individuals like the Good Thief, for example, who was crucified with our Lord. Even in cases of so-called "death-bed conversions," there is much we don't know; much that God alone knows. We never know, for instance, how difficult a struggle others must wage against serious sin.

In this sense, the Gospel provides hope for those who have idled even in the Lord's vineyard all their lives. It does not condone such idling: Of Course not. But can't the fact that those who were hired last were given the same recompense as those who were hired first, be translated into the principle that it is never too late for anyone to return to God's friendship?

At the same time, today's parable constitutes a caution for any of us who thinks he or she can stop laboring until others catch up to us, as it were. For-here is the main point-everyone is equally inefficient before God; all are equally unworthy before him. Our having borne the heat of the day any longer in terms of time cannot be used as an argument to the effect that we deserve eternal reward, or that we have won the race of life. Again, God's mathematics is not ours. To think otherwise is to manifest immaturity of soul.

Christian maturity demands that we face the world as St. Paul says we should in today's Second Reading. We "live for Christ," not in the sense that we wish a personal escape from this world, but rather that we see everything in this world and order everything in this world, in view of the mystery of Christ who is our final goal.

The Epistle to Diognetus, written about the year 200 A.D., describes Christians in these terms:

"They reside in their respective countries, but only as aliens ... Each foreign land is their home ... they marry like all others and beget children; but they do not expose their offspring. Their board they spread for all, but not their bed. They find themselves in the flesh but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their days on earth, but hold citizenship in heaven ... They are poor, and enrich many. They are dishonored, and in their dishonor find their glory.. . (Readings in Church History, Volume 1, ed. Colman J. Barry: Westminster, Md., Newman, 1960).

Again, to "live for Christ" is maturity as we see it. Our vision differs from; nay, transcends essentially, the weak and distorted vision of the world.

 
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