Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.” (Matthew 20:1)

In an ancient work known as the Incomplete Work on Matthew, an anonymous Ancient Christian Writer (ACW) offers the following insight on these verses from today’s Gospel:

“To hire laborers for his vineyard.” What is the vineyard of God here? Not men, as elsewhere; for men are called the cultivators of the vineyard. The vineyard is justice and in it different kinds of virtues are placed like vines. For example, gentleness, chastity, patience, high-mindedness, and countless other good qualities which are all in general called virtues. So let us note how earnestly we should cultivate the heavenly vineyard. Adam was put in paradise to cultivate it and work it, but because he neglected it he was thrown out of it. We have been put here to cultivate justice; if we neglect it, we will be cast out, just as the Jews also were cast out, of whom it was written: “Add iniquity to their iniquity, that they may not enter thy justice.” The fall of those going before should be a warning for those following. But if we the followers have also fallen into ruin, those who were the first to fall deserve pardon more than we who follow. A hired hand placed in the vineyard will not only lose his pay if he neglects it, but he will also be charged with the loss of the abandoned vineyard. So we too, if we neglect the justice committed to us, will not only have no reward, but we will also be charged for the justice that has been abolished. For God’s vineyard is not outside us but has been planted inside our very selves. So anyone who commits sin destroys the justice of God within himself; but anyone who does good works cultivates it in himself. The well-cultivated justice of God within you brings forth grapes, that is, Christ. For those who do just deeds form Christ in themselves, as is written: “My little children, with whom I am again in travail, until Christ be formed in you.

Anyone who consigns a vineyard to another to work consigns it not so much for the other’s benefit as for his own; but God, giving his justice to our understanding, gave it not for his own benefit but for ours. God does not need our labor, but we who do just work may live because of it. The owner who consigned the vineyard to someone else for his own benefit expects to receive it back in the same condition as he handed it over. How then will justice not be demanded back from us in as immaculate a condition as he created it in us, particularly as he gave it not for his own benefit but for our salvation?

Be aware that we have been hired as laborers. If we have been hired as laborers, we ought to know what our tasks are, for a hired laborer cannot be without a task. Our tasks are the works of justice, not to till our fields and vineyards; not to amass riches and pile up honors but to benefit our neighbors. And though we can do this tilling and amassing without sin, yet they are not our tasks but our daily occupations.

No one hires a laborer to work only so that the laborer may eat. So we too have been called by Christ to do not merely what pertains to our own benefit but to do what pertains to the glory of God. The hired hand, who only works so that he may fill his belly, wanders purposelessly about the house. So we too, if we do only what pertains to our benefit, live without reason on the earth. And just as the hired hand first looks to his work and then to his wages, so we too are Christ’s hired hands and first ought to look at what pertains to God’s glory and to the benefit of our neighbors …. Charity and true love toward God “does not insist on its own way” but desires to perform everything to the wish of the beloved—then to what pertains to our own benefit.” (Incomplete Work on Matthew, «Homily 34»)

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,
one God, for ever and ever.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen