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Gospel for Sunday, September 24: Matthew 20: 1-16

XXV Sunday A

1“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire workers for his vineyard. 2He agreed with them for a denarius a day and sent them into his vineyard. 3Then going out around nine in the morning, he saw others standing in the square, unemployed, 4and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard; I will give you what is right.” 5And they went. She went out again about noon, and about three, and did the same. 6Going out again around five o’clock, he saw others standing there and said to them: “Why do you stand here all day doing nothing?” 7They replied: “Because no one has hired us.” And he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” 8When it was evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his farmer: “Call the workers and give them their wages, starting from the last to the first.” 9When those of five in the afternoon came, they each received a denarius. 10When the first ones arrived, they thought they would receive more. But they also each received a denarius. 11When they took it back, however, they murmured against the master 12saying: “These last ones worked only one hour and you treated them like us, who bore the burden of the day and the heat.” 13But the master, answering one of them, said: “Friend, I do you no wrong. Have you not agreed with me for a denarius? 14Take yours and leave. But I also want to give to the latter as much as to you: 15I can’t do what I want with my things? Or are you jealous because I’m good?”. 16Thus the last will be first and the first last.”

Mt 20: 1-16

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

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It caused a certain sensation when I wrote the book: “The injustice of God and other anomalies of his love”. But God is profoundly “unjust”, according to current logic, and… thank goodness for us, because if he were to continually punish us for our sins, for our disobedience, the most terrible punishments would not be enough at any moment.

The biblical concept of “justice” (in Hebrew “sedaqah” and in Greek “dikaiosyne”) does not correspond to the human one well expressed by Ulpian, in Roman law, of “voluntas suum unicuique tribuendi”, i.e. giving to each one his due . “Never has a translation been as unfortunate as this one, because, if Paul took the word from the Roman legal world, the meaning he gave it is completely different” (G. Ravasi). For Jews, “justice” is essentially solidarity with the community, living harmonious relationships with brothers. For this reason, in Scripture, God’s “Justice” is essentially his plan of love for men, his saving, merciful and faithful activity, which is ultimately fulfilled only in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:21-26).

This is why, when in the New Testament we talk about retributive justice, there is no “do ut des” logic in God. He is not a sort of great trader who, with a scale, gives rewards or punishments in the exact measure of merit: he is willing to forgive all our sins as long as we do the same with our brothers (Mt 6,14-15; 18, 21-35), forgives all our debts if we forgive them to our debtors (Mt 6,12), rewards “the dishonest administrator, because he had acted with cunning…, procuring friends with dishonest wealth” (Lk 16, 1-12), and if it is impossible for a rich man to save himself, “what is impossible with men is not impossible with God” (Mt 19.23-26). The same rewarding not on the basis of faith or religiosity but according to the objective situation of poverty (“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God…; woe to you, rich, for you already have your consolation”: Luke 6.20-25) goes against the concept of remuneration for personal merit. Ultimately, God is an “unjust” judge according to human criteria because, in today’s Gospel, he rewards with the same salary both those who have worked twelve hours in the vineyard and those who have worked only one hour and who, according to human thought , they have a right to protest (Mt 20.1-16).

It is the injustice of Love, of mercy that overflows on impartiality: it is the logic of those who abandon the ninety-nine sheep in the desert to go in search of the lost one (Lk 15.4), of those who rejoice most “for a sinner converted for ninety-nine righteous” (Lk 15,7), of the Father who kills the fatted calf, making great celebration, for the prodigal son who returns, while he never gave a kid to his obedient son to party with his friends ( Lk 15,11-32), of Jesus who transgresses the Law which would command the stoning of the adulteress, and sends the woman away without condemning her (Jn 8,1-11), who forgives the sinner, “because she loved much” (Lk 7.47-49).

Pope Francis states: “God’s action is more than just, in the sense that it goes beyond justice and manifests itself in Grace. Everything is Grace. Our salvation is Grace. Our holiness is Grace. By giving us Grace, He gives us more than we deserve. And so, those who reason with human logic, that is, that of merits acquired through their own skill, find themselves last first. “But, I worked a lot, I did a lot in the Church, I helped a lot, and they pay me the same as this one who came last.” Let us remember who was the first saint canonized in the Church: the Good Thief. He “stole” Heaven at the last moment of his life: this is Grace, this is God. Even with all of us. Instead, those who try to think about their own merits fail; whoever entrusts himself with humility to the mercy of the Father, ultimately – like the Good Thief – finds himself first (see v. 16)”.

If in the Old Testament God’s justice was manifested with the grace that he offered to “pious” people, Jesus proclaims an unheard of truth for the Jewish world: God takes care of the sinner! God’s Justice is therefore his Love! To demonstrate that his being Justice is only being Love, God will take upon himself, in the Person of the Son, the sins of men, and will himself pay the penalty by dying for them (Rom 3.25). The Cross is therefore the sublime revelation of the sense of divine Justice, the supreme theophany of his being Justice-Love! This is truly the “Gospel”, the joyful news: nothing can now separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8.35-39)!

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at migliettacarlo@gmail.com.

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