Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
(Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalm 145: 2-3,8-9,17-18; Philippians 1:20-24,27; Matthew 20:1-16)
The Importance of Knowing and Experiencing the Grace of God
“The last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)
These words can have a number of different meanings. For instance, we look at “first and last” as referring to those who are important in this world and those who are marginal. In heaven, the lowly, the “weak of the world,” will be given the highest place (1 Corinthians 1:27).
But we could also apply these words to the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews were the first ones to hear the gospel, but many did not accept it. On the other hand, many Gentiles accepted Jesus’ message and became disciples. So even though the Gentiles were the “last” to receive the gospel, many were among the “first” to enter heaven.
Today’s parable of the laborers in the vineyard gives us another view of this paradox — one that is just as compelling as the previous two.
To help us grasp this last view, let’s recall the last few lines of the previous chapter in Matthew. There, Jesus promises: “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” (Matthew 19:29). So it’s clear that the rewards given in heaven will be based, to some degree, on the degree of our service to God.
But then in today’s parable, we get the sense that it doesn’t matter how long you have worked in the “vineyard of the Lord.” Everyone gets the same reward.
Jesus’ point here is that reward is not based on seniority; it’s based on grace. The last to enter the kingdom will receive the same amount of grace as the one who arrived first.
Putting these two passages together, we can see that it is a privilege to come early and work for the Lord, but we shouldn’t think that these early birds are special or more beloved by the Lord. Everyone is precious to God, and he delights in giving all of us a full share in his kingdom and his glory.
“Jesus, help us to love one another as you love us.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- The first reading and responsorial psalm both encourage us to “seek” and “call” upon the Lord. We are assured he is “near” and “may be found.” He is so near in fact that in the Eucharist, the very God who created the universe let’s us partake of himself! How would you describe your preparation to receive Christ in the Eucharist? How could you improve it?
- Again, both of these reading assure us that God is “compassionate” and “forgiving.” How often do you avail yourself of Christ kindness and mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? What keeps you from taking advantage of God’s love and forgiveness more often?
- In the second reading,St. Paulstates his desire that “Christ will be magnified in my body” and exhorts us to live a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Specifically, how do these statements apply to how you live your life as a Catholic man or women? What can we do individually, and together as brothers and sisters in Christ, to make these a greater reality in our lives?
- In the gospel, we hear Jesus saying to the laborers, “you too go into my vineyard.” Pope John Paul II said that this was addressed not just to the apostles but also “to all who desire to be authentic disciples of the Lord.” In what ways can you become a more active laborer in the Lord’s vineyard? For example, are there some steps you can take to be a more active part of the life of your parish?
- Jesus turns our human sense of justice and generosity on its head when he says, “Are you envious because I am generous? Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Does your own human sense of justice and generosity keep you from seeing the love and mercy of God toward you and in the lives of others? In what specific ways do you need to change in order to have God’s heart of mercy and forgiveness toward others?
- In the referring to the parable of the “Laborers in the Vineyard” the meditation states the following: “Jesus’ point here is that reward is not based on seniority; it’s based on grace. The last to enter the kingdom will receive the same amount of grace as the one who arrived first.” How important in your life is knowing and experiencing the grace of God? Can you share some examples from your life when you did?
- The prayer at the end of the meditation reminds us of Jesus’ “new commandment” in John 13:34-35: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Take some time now to pray for the grace to “love one another” as Jesus has loved you. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.