Readings and Reflections

 

St Peter’s/St Joseph’s Bidding Prayers
19th / 20th September 2020

 

Priest:
Jesus offered his life on the cross so that we might all be saved.   Let us pray for strength we need for the journey.

 

Reader:
Today is the world day of prayer for the spread of the gospel:   Let us commend to God all of those whose work it is to draw others to Christ.
Lord in your mercy.

We all work in the vineyard of the Lord:   May our work bear much fruit and draw others to know and love Jesus.                                           

Lord in your mercy.

In some parts of the country the spread of coronavirus is on the increase:   We pray that we all act responsibly and avoid a further lockdown.
Lord in your mercy.

Some people dedicate their lives to the care of the sick:   We pray that the Lord will sustain them in the work that they do.                                 

Lord in your mercy.  

We commend to the loving mercy of the Father in heaven those who have died recently and those whose anniversaries occur at about this time:  May they place their trust in Jesus who has paid the price of their salvation.

Lord in your mercy.

We can commend our own personal needs to God.    In a moment of silence let us ask the Lord for the gifts we most deeply desire.
 [After a pause]                  

                                                              

Lord in your mercy.

Mary received her denarius when she was assumed into heaven.   We ask her to pray for us, that we might join her and the saints in the heavenly kingdom.
Hail Mary….

 

Priest:   Father in heaven, you sent your Son Jesus to proclaim the gospel of forgiveness.   We make these prayers today in his name for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.                                                 

Amen.

 

 

Reflection for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Sunday, 20th September 2020

If you do not have a copy of the missalette, you can find today’s readings at www.universalis .com

 

If you have a group of small children playing together, you don’t have to wait too long before you hear one of them say:  “That’s not fair!”   And if there is an adult nearby they might make an appeal:  “Tell him to give me my share”.   The point is that children seem to have a built in sense of equity.   Without anyone explaining the rules to them, they know when one of the unwritten ones have been broken.

 

This is what is happening in the gospel today.   Yes, it’s another made up story from Jesus.   We have learnt to call them parables.   They could be scenes drawn from real life, only there is a sting in the tail to make us sit up and take notice.

 

All day long the owner of the vineyard has been hiring workers.   When it is time to pay them at the end of the day, those who have only worked for one hour receive the same wage as those who have laboured throughout the heat of the day.   We can understand why the first comers were put out, yet the one denarius was the wage agreed at the outset.

 

At the time of Jesus, one denarius was roughly 2 day’s pay for a professional Roman Legionary, or put another way, it would buy more than a gallon of good wine.   In the story of the good Samaritan, the traveller offered the Innkeeper 2 denarius to look after the injured man.   So at the very least, in offering one denarius as a day’s wage, the owner of the vineyard was being generous.   But why should he be so much extra generous to the Johnny-come-latelies who had only done a single hour’s work?

 

The point Jesus is trying to make is that God’s justice is not our justice!   When it comes to salvation, God practices a radical egalitarianism.   In fact, none of us deserve to be saved at all, but it is God’s free gift to everyone who will receive it.   In God’s eyes you might be the best pope that has ever lived, or the worst sinner, but if you ask for forgiveness for what you have done wrong – there is only one reward.

 

But why did Matthew recall this story of Jesus at this point in his gospel.   Perhaps in his community there were some who had accepted baptism as soon as they had been evangelised.   Perhaps some of these have had to witness to the faith by trials and persecutions.   Perhaps too, once the persecution had ended, there were some who became Christians on their late in life, without having to witness to Christ at all.   Here the scale of human justice kicks in.   Why should these last comers be treated the same way as the ones who had laboured through the heat of the day.   Matthew remembers these words of Jesus to explain the situation.

 

God has only one reward to give:  forgiveness of sins and eternal life.   Remember, it is not a reward we have earned.   As in the gospel last week, we do not earn our salvation, we simply accept it as a generous gift from the one who loves us.   Paul has to correct some of the Christians at Corinth who thought that they had received this gift, so therefore there was nothing more for them to do but to live in idleness.   If we had an appreciation of the gift being offered, we would gladly work all the day long for the wage that is promised.

 

So what does working in the vineyard of the Lord involve?   We are all becoming experts in the “R-number”.  As far as the pandemic is concerned, the R-number is the number of people who will subsequently be infected from one single infected person.   We are trying to keep that number to less than 1, in an attempt to keep a lid on the rise of the number of cases.   Recently, we believe, the number has risen above 1, as we see the number of cases growing daily.  

 

There is a Christian equivalent to the R-number.   How many people are drawn to believe in Jesus through the witness of one of his followers?   Only with this measure we need this number to be greater than one, so that the Christian faith can increase.   Maybe as an exercise, think back over your own life and ask yourself the question:  “How many people have come to believe in Christ because of the way in which I have lived my life?”   Actually, it’s a bit of a trick question, as the reward of eternal life is the same irrespective of the answer – be it none or be it a million.   As Paul would say:  “let us allow God’s grace to abound”.