LABORERS IN THE LORD’S VINEYARD
ln the Gospel of today, Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven: or going to heaven, is like the laborers who are called at different times of the day by the landowner to work in his vineyard or farmland. The first group of laborers were called at dawn. They agreed with the landowner that at the end of the day, the landowner would pay each of them the usual daily wage. The landowner met another group of laborers at different times that same day and sent them to his vineyard. He did not discuss the wage with any of these groups, he simply promised them that he would pay them what is just, they agreed. Only the first group worked for the whole day. Some groups worked for some hours. The last group worked for only one hour. At the end of the day the landowner ordered his foreman to pay each laborer the usual daily wage, beginning with the last and ending with the first; and his orders were carried out. The first group, on receiving it, 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.” The landowner 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 these last ones 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?’ He then added, thus, “the last will be first, and the first will be last.” One important lesson that could be drawn from this passage is that the landowner did not cheat those who worked for the whole day. They were grumbling because they were envious of those who worked lesser hours. and received the usual daily wage, they wanted them to receive less money. But they have forgotten that the money was not theirs, the money belongs to the landowner. If he decides to pay some of them more than what they deserve that should not constitute a problem for anybody. He has the right to help people with his money, the core message of this parable can be explained and summarized as follows; The landowner is God, the vineyard or farmland is the world. the laborers are God’s children on earth. God’s children are called by God at different times in their lives to serve God in different ways. Some were called when they were young, and others were called when they were old. But at the end of our lives our reward will be the same; that is, our reward will be eternal life or life without end or to live with God forever and ever which we normally call heaven.
The patriarchal culture of the Igbo people of Nigeria and some other cultural groups in Africa and beyond allows the father of a family to share his properties among his male children only and give nothing to his female children, especially the land. This cultural practice is wrong! In fact, it is evil because it challenges and opposes the Gospel. No body, no tradition, no culture. and no society have the right to dictate for you how to share your money or your wealth to people. Learn this from the landowner in this parable. Remember that the landowner in this parable represents God.
Pope Francis also reminds us that in this parable, Jesus wants to open our hearts to the logic of the Father’s love which is free and generous. The Holy Father maintains that it is about allowing oneself to be astonished and fascinated by the
“thoughts” and the “ways” of God which, as the Prophet Isaiah recalls, are not our thoughts and not our ways (ls 55:8). Human thoughts are often marked by selfishness and personal advantages, and our narrow and contorted paths are not comparable to the wide and straight streets of the Lord. Our merciful God forgives broadly. God is filled with generosity and kindness which is poured forth on each of us. God opens for everyone the boundless territory of God’ s love and grace, which alone can give the human heart the fullness of joy. May the Blessed Virgin Mary our Mother help us to welcome into our lives the logic of love which frees us from the presumption of deserving God’ s reward and from the critical judgement of others Amen.
Father Clement Ucbendu C.S.Sp., PhD.
THE DANGER OF ANGER
Sirach makes it abundantly clear in the first reading of this Sunday that anger is an extremely dangerous vice. He regrets that unfortunately habitual sinners hold firm to anger (Sir 27:30). If we want to resolve the problem of anger, we must begin by eliminating the root cause of all evils. Saint Paul tells us that love of money is the root of all evils. Saint Paul is not saying that we should not love money; rather what he calls love of money here is excess desire for money or wealth or material things (1Tim 6:10). Another name for excess desire for money is PRIDE. A proud heart is like a fertile soil that germinates excess desire for money and wealth because it is thirsting to be on top always so that it can control and dominate everybody and everything at will. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16: 18-19) . There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue , hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers and sisters (Prov. 6:16-19).
Everyone who is arrogant in the heart is an abomination to the Lord; and the person will not go unpunished (Prov. 16:5). “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble “ (James 4:6). The proud serpent took Adam and Eve to the school of pride and lectured them . The proud devil lured them and helped them to develop excess desire for power in their hearts by assuring them that if they ate the forbidden fruit they would become like gods. They listened to him attentively and after acquiring the necessary skills they followed the advice of the devil and ate the forbidden fruit. They wanted to become equal with God. This is an act of pride which led to disobedience. Sin begets sin (Gen 3:1-6). The best way to emerge victorious in the war against anger involves two major approaches. The first approach is to engage in a global and continuous war against the seven capital vices or sins. Vices can be classified according to the virtues they oppose. The Following seven vices are called “capital” vices or capital sins because they engender other sins or other vices. They are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia (CCC 1866). We must remember that although sin is a personal act, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them by pa1iicipating directly and voluntarily in them; by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them; by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so; and above all, by protecting the evildoers. (CCC 1868). Sin can thus make men and women accomplices of one another and causes concupiscence, violence, and injustice to reign among them . Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness. “Structures of sin” are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a “social sin”(CCC 1869). http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_ P6D.HTM
The second approach in the war against anger is to engage in a global and continuous quest for goodness or virtues. A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself or herself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his or her sensory and spiritual powers; the person pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions which include whatever ” is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious” or excellent or worthy of praise. The goal of a virtuous life is to become like God (CCC 1803). We must also strive to acquire the three theological virtues; they are: faith, hope and charity; the four cardinal virtues, they are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance; the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; they are: wisdom , understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord, and finally, the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit; they are: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity.” (CCC 1803-1832).
Only a humble person can live a virtuous life, this is the reason why our Lord Jesus Christ makes a clarion call to us saying: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt 11:28-30). May the Holy Spirit inspire us and help to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ our model so that when we die, we live with him forever in heaven Amen.
Father Clement Uchendu C.S.Sp., PhD.
Our Lord’s Prayer
In Our Lord’s Prayer Jesus urges us to ask the Father to forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. He then goes on to explain the implication of forgiveness saying: “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions (Mt 6: 12-15). When Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. He then uses the parable of the King and a poor servant (Mt 18:21-35) to explain what he means by seventy-seven times. The key message of the parable of the King and a poor servant can be explained as follows: The original sin is an extremely grave sin against God, but God has, in Jesus Christ, forgiven humanity this enormous grievous offence (2 Cor 5:18-19). God therefore expects us to extend that forgiveness to our brothers and sisters who have offended us slightly. We should learn to forgive like God. Seventy- seven times means unlimited. Jesus is not telling us to forgive our brothers and sisters seventy-seven times and no more. In Luke 17:4, Jesus says, “If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent’, forgive him. May the Holy Spirit inspire us help us to embrace forgiveness and reconciliation as a way of life in our relationship with God, with ourselves and with our neighbor so that we can become perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:48), Amen.
Father Clement Uchendu C.S.Sp., PhD
True discipleship involves self-denial” acceptance of the cross and fidelity, (Mt 16:24-28; Mk 8:34-38; Lk 9:23-27). The will of God is paramount to everything. If I want to be a disciple of Jesus, I must abandon my will and accept the will of Cod in every situation. I must embrace my daily cross and I must remain faithful to God every day. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that anyone who does not place God above family ties and even his or her own life cannot be his or her disciple (Lk14:26). He also warns us that unless we sit down and calculate what discipleship will cost us? we are not going to win the race (Lk 14:28-33). Jesus is our model. He teaches in words and in practice. He tells us that his food is to do the will of his Father who sent him (Jn 4:34). He put this into practice when he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane before his passion. He says: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26:39). At the end. he abandoned his will and drank that cup in accordance with the will the Father (Gal 1:4).
Temporal and Eternal Reward
When Simon Peter said to Jesus: “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” Jesus said to them. “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me. in the new age. when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last” and the last will be first (Mt 19:27-30). Jesus also said to his disciples: “Whoever serves me must follow me. and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me” (Jn 12:26 -27). We can see that we are not laboring in vain. All the sacrifices we make in order to do the will of God always and in every situation are for our own good because we are rewarded heavily for them in this world and if we remain faithful to the end of our life. God will receive us into external life (Mt 19:27-30. 25:31-46).
At the Hour of our Death
The state of our relationship with God at the end of our life is extremely important. Jesus stressed that many who are first will be last, and the last will be first. lt is like a race. Someone may be coming first but towards the end he or she collapses. That person will receive no reward. But if someone was coming last and suddenly improved and comes first. That person will receive a big reward. If a virtuous person turns from the path of virtue to do evil. the same kind of abominable things that the wicked person does, none of his or her virtuous deeds shall be remembered” he or she shall die. But if the wicked person turns away from all the sins he or she committed and begins to do what is right and just, he or she shall surely live. he or she shall not die. Only the one who sins shall die. The child shall not be charged with the guilt of his or her father. nor shall the father be charged with the guilt of his child. (Ezk 18:20-24).
May the Virgen Mary pray’ for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, and may the Holy Spirit inspire us and help us to follow Jesus always in our daily living so that when we die” we live with Jesus. The Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven forever and ever Amen.
Father Clement Uchendu C.S.Sp. PhD