Father Leslie Hoppe, OFM

Sept. 24: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Trust God

Is 55:6-9; Ps 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18; Phil 1:20c-24, 27a; Mt 20:1-6

St. Paul was a remarkable person. More than anyone else, he was responsible for the extraordinary spread of Christianity in the first generation following the end of Jesus’ ministry. He did not confine himself to Galilee and Judea as did Jesus. Paul took the Good News to what is now known as Syria, Turkey and Greece.

Despite his success in leading people to the Gospel, Paul had to endure criticism from some Jewish Christians. They did not trust him.

Both Jewish religious leadership and Roman political authorities believed him to be dangerous. He was arrested and imprisoned several times. He was scourged at least twice. He was shipwrecked three times. Two of his co-workers in mission abandoned him. Still, Paul did not give up.

Paul knew that things did not look good for him or for the Christian movement during his time in Rome under house arrest. Roman authorities believed Christianity was a subversive cult because they did not participate in Roman civil religion. They did not frequent the temples where the gods honored by the Romans were worshipped.

This distrust led to scapegoating the Christians, who began to be rounded up, imprisoned and their property confiscated. Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while awaiting trial to prepare his readers for what lay ahead for the followers of Christ.

While under arrest, Paul had time to think about his immediate future. Today’s second reading is the result of those reflections.

The apostle wrote that he looked forward to death since it would make it possible for him to be “with Christ.” No doubt, he considered that to be his reward for all that he endured for the sake of the Gospel. But Paul put such thoughts out of his mind.

Paul welcomed the likelihood that he would die for the Gospel, but he was willing to continue his work even if it meant more difficulties for him. The apostle was certain that the cause of Christ would be served by his life or his death.

For Paul, that he remained committed to Christ and the Gospel was most important. He was content to leave his future in God’s hands.

Matthew recounts the parable of the workers in the vineyard to make a point similar to Paul’s. Discipleship is not about earning rewards but about bearing witness the Good News of Jesus Christ.

We have been called by God, redeemed by Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be the light of the world and salt of the earth. Fulfilling that call ought to be our only concern.

The generosity of the employer in the parable of the workers in the vineyard took the workers by surprise. It should not be surprising for us since we all have experienced God’s generosity through Jesus Christ.

The key to appreciating this parable is to see ourselves as those workers who were the last to be hired. We have no right to a full day’s pay, but we have received it nonetheless. For this we give thanks. We also rejoice when we witness the marvels of God’s mercy in the lives of others who come to accept the Gospel and become new persons in Christ by the unmerited grace of God.

Paul was content to put the future in God’s hands. He advised the Philippians to do the same. All they needed to concern themselves with was leading a life worthy of the Gospel of Christ.

Paul told them and us that God takes care of the future and we need to remember the words of Isaiah — God’s thoughts are not our thoughts nor God’s ways are our ways. God treats sinners with mercy and compassion.

That, of course, is good news. What we look forward to is a surprise like that of the workers that were hired last. In the meantime, we commit ourselves to leading lives worthy of the calling we have received, leaving the future in God’s loving and compassionate hands.



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