September 22, 2023

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe last section of the Book of Isaiah provides the first reading for Mass this weekend. Virtually none of the prophets of ancient Israel wrote when times were good, or at least when the prophets perceived the times to be good.

Certainly, the author of this section of the Book of Isaiah hardly regarded the times to be good.

An added dimension to the story of the unhappy plight then being endured by God’s people is that when they returned from Babylon—where they and their ancestors had been in exile for four generations—they found not relief but want.

Having greeted the fact that their exile was over with great rejoicing, convinced that God had provided for them and had rescued them, they found misery and despair waiting them.

It is easy to imagine their anger. They were furious with God. For generations, they had trusted that God would come to their aid.

This prophet had to restore their trust in God.

In this reading, the prophet warns the people not to put their trust in scoundrels. He tells the people to call upon God, the source of true strength, regardless of fleeting appearances to the contrary.

For this weekend’s second reading, the Church offers us a passage from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians.

Paul, in this letter’s soaring language, proclaims the divinity of Christ, the Savior, the Son of God. The Apostle explains the intimate, inseparable link between the Lord and true disciples.

Come what may on Earth, disciples will never be separated from Christ in life or death if they are constant in loving God and obediently following Christ.

St. Matthew’s Gospel provides a parable for the last reading. It is set within the context of everyday life in Palestine at the time of Jesus. Agriculture was the pursuit of most. Life was hard. Poverty was epidemic.

Gainful employment was at a premium. Men looking for work and income came to village centers each morning to make themselves available for work. People with projects came to these places and hired these men.

It was a buyer’s market. No labor statutes or requirements for any minimum wage restrained employers in their pursuit of profit. Still, at least for Jews, certain expectations of fairness prevailed. A dinarius was a typical day’s wage.

Jesus used the term “vineyard” (Mt 20:1). It immediately recalled Old Testament references to Israel as God’s vineyard. So, the story from the beginning had a theological and moral quality. God owned and cared for the vineyard. He sets the rules and hires the workers. He therefore provides them with survival itself.

Two powerful lessons emerge. First, God is enormously generous. Second, God’s ways are not necessarily our ways, a reality we seldom remember.


For some weeks, the Church, through these weekend Mass readings, has been calling us to follow Christ. Wisely, in this process, the Church recognizes that we often hesitate, not because we do not want to be with the Lord, but because we bear the burden of guilt or doubt. We assume that our self-created distance from God is too great to bridge.

The Church reassures us in these readings of the unlimited mercy of God. He is the source of life and lavishly offers it to us.

Whatever our sins, if we repent—even at a late hour—God’s loving forgiveness awaits us.

Ultimately, however, we must choose to be with God, to be disciples. No one is dragged kicking and screaming into heaven. Discipleship requires faith. Paul’s words call us to faith with the reminder that without God all is folly, all is impermanent and all is death. God alone offers life. †

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