Scripture Studies, September 24, 2017

September 24, 2017 Twenty-Fifth Sunday In Ordinary Time

This Sunday, the readings speak of the generosity of God and of God’s amazing closeness to and involvement in His creation. Paul urges us to live our lives in keeping with this Divine involvement. The Gospel forcefully reminds us that God grants His generosity to whomever He wills and that such an act on His part is not an injustice to others since no one can earn or really deserve any favor from God. All such favors are free gifts of God.


First Reading: Isaiah 55:6-9

6 Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.

7 Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked man his thoughts;
Let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.

9 As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.

NOTES on First Reading:

* 55:6 The phrase, “seek the Lord,” is usually used to call people to worship at the sanctuary but here it urges Israel to find the Lord elsewhere. There is a strong reference back to Jer 29:10-14 which accentuates the move away from the sanctuary.

* 55:8-9 God has been described as transcendent and hidden in Isa 45:15, yet He is near enough to be grieved by sin as in Isa 43:24. God and His ways are far beyond our understanding. Regardless of our abilities and desires, in the end, we must let God be God because we are incapable of even understanding His plan for us.

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

20 [My eager expectation and hope is that I shall not be put to shame in any way, but that with all boldness, now as always,] Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. 22 If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. 23 I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, (for) that is far better. 24 Yet that I remain (in) the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. [25 And this I know with confidence, that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound on account of me when I come to you again.]

27 Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ, [so that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear news of you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind struggling together for the faith of the gospel.]

NOTES on Second Reading:

* 1:20 Paul believes that the power of the Risen Christ which is active through the Spirit in him will be so effective as to demand public acknowledgment of Christ’s glory.
The phrase, ” in my body ,” as is typical in Paul’s writing, means ” the entire person as seen by others.” I placed the first part of this verse in brackets to show that it is not included in this reading. The brackets around verses 25, 26 and the last part of 27 mean the same thing.

* 1:21 Through baptism, Paul has died to his former life and now lives a life that belongs entirely to Christ. See Gal 2:19-20; 3:27-28; Phil 3:7-11; Rom 6:3-11. This new life transcends even the normal boundaries of death. Death is gain because it brings about a greater union with Christ Who has already passed through the resurrection. Resurrection to a more complete union with Christ is the goal.

* 1:22 A longer life provides a longer time to preach the Gospel and bring others to Christ.

* 1:23 Depart means simply to die. Paul seems to envisage some form of “being with Christ” prior to the general resurrection (2 Cor 5:2-4).

* 1:24 This verse expresses a pragmatic need of the apostolate.

* 1:27 Paul begins his ethical admonition at this early point in the letter by reminding his readers of the dignity to which they have been called by the gospel of Jesus.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 20:1-16a

1 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and he said to them, ’You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ 5 So they went off. (And) he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. 6 Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ’Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They answered, ’Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ’You too go into my vineyard.’ 8 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.’ 9 When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. 10 So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 12 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.’ 13 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? 14 Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? 15 (Or) am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

NOTES on the Gospel:

* 20:1-16 This parable is found only in Matthew. It is not certain whether the evangelist composed it or received it as part of the traditional material that was handed on as part of the oral tradition about Jesus. In its present location, the story’s close association with Matthew 19:30 suggests that its point is the equality of all the disciples in the reward of inheriting eternal life. It may also be meant to refer to Gentile Christians as late comers to the worship of the true God. After the Jews had been God’s people for two thousand years, the Gentile Christians are “Johnny come latelies” and yet they are welcomed into the fold of Christ.

* 20:1 The vineyard was a common Biblical symbol for Israel (Isa 5; Jer 2:10).

* 20:2 The usual daily wage for a common laborer was a denarius.

* 20:3-7 The times at which men were hired in the story are: 6 am, 9 am, noon, 3 pm, and 5 pm. Other than for the first group, the wage is not stipulated, except to say that it will be just. The crossroads or marketplace was the normal place where one would go to look for work or to be hired for the day.

* 20:7 The men apparently wanted to work but were unemployed. Their idleness is not the same as laziness. Here work seems to be more honorable than doing nothing.

* 20:8 The phrase, “beginning with the last,” makes this a reflection or teaching (some have called it a midrash) on 19:30.

* 20:10 These workers are victims of their own expectations. The master kept his bargain with them.

* 20:11 Compare with Exod 16:3-8, where Israel grumbled against God.

* 20:12 The wage is the same but they are not really equal since the later workers are getting a greater generosity from the master. Compare with 21:31.

* 20:13 The master is not cheating them. He is giving them what they agreed to take.

* 20:14 This reflects a classic definition of justice which is to render to each what is his due.

* 20:15 In this verse, the reversal of fortune is attributed to the goodness and generosity of God. He loves whom He loves. None of the late comers earned the full day’s pay but the householder granted it to them out of his goodness and generosity. So too, we late comers to faith in the true God can not earn a reward from God but rather we receive it because of God’s generosity.

* 20:16 This verse repeats the saying of 19:30 in reverse order forming a chiasm of sorts. A chiasm is an arrangement where each element in the first part is echoed and elaborated by an element in the second part with the center element expressing the main point. Chiasm means envelope or sandwich. This verse has parallels in Mark 10:31 and Luke 13:30.
The chiasm may be described in several different ways; one example is: A Statement of proverb(19:20) B Landowner speaks and sends (20:2-6) C Workers speak (20:7) D Owner says to give them their pay and all get the same wage (20:8-10) C� Workers speak (20:11-12) B� Landowner speaks and sends (20:13-15) A� Statement of proverb in reverse order (20:16) D, the element in the center, is highlighted as the main point of the story. All get the same wage, the gift of the Kingdom.

This verse has parallels in Mark 10:31 and Luke 13:30.</p

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