Scripture Notes – Sunday 20th September 2020

“Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?”

Dear friends, 

A very warm welcome to all to Hearers of the Word.

1. Matthew and God’s sovereign grace
Even a cursory reading of Matthew will reveal the emphasis he places on the practical living of the Gospel. In this, he shares something with the letter of James: perhaps both a struggling with Paul’s emphasis on the free gift or at least with some  misuse of it. Still, as is evident from today’s parable of the workers in the vineyard, he too knows that all is inscrutable grace. “Have I no right to do what I like with my own?”

Is there a practical/spiritual application of the parable today? Perhaps this might help.

1. At one level, the parable strikes at the resistance of the “always faithful” to the apparently easy entry of the “erring” and the “outsider.” This is a fairly unlikely spiritual issue today, given the condition of Christianity. “All are welcome” has to be our theme song.  Any resentment at that level is a luxury we can’t afford.

2. The other issue come from observations about human nature. We have an inbuilt sense of natural justice and equity. In the world of relationship and work, we do expect commensurate reward. It would be easy to fall into that, especially with the emphasis on works in Matthew’s Gospel. It would be say to think of our efforts as somehow earning a just response from God. This is really unacceptable to Matthew and to the Bible as a whole: all is grace, all gift, thanks be to God.

Many years ago, Piet Franzen came up with an illustration of the workings of grace which stayed in my mind. When parents love a child and the child responds, then the child flourishes. It would be a complete waste of time trying to figure out whether it was the grace of parental love or the child’s “good work” of responding. I like the prayer associated with St Augustine: we come before you, Lord, with the good works achieved by your grace. It is definitely not either/or but very much both/and.

The YouTube exploration offers a more developed contemporary context.

2. Sunday 25A20 (20 September 2020)
Full notes (PDF)
Gospel notes (audio)
Gospel notes (portable)

The YouTube videos are intended to be a further exploration of the Gospel, with an eye to spiritual, pastoral and practical concerns.

Gospel exploration (YouTube)
Gospel exploration (Zoom)
Full set  (YouTube)

3. Some inspiration from Pope Francis on Matthew 20:1-16

With this parable, Jesus wants to open our hearts to the logic of the Father’s love which is free and generous. It is about allowing oneself to be astonished and fascinated by the “thoughts” and the “ways” of God which, as the Prophet Isaiah recalls, are not our thoughts and not our ways (cf Is 55:8). Human thoughts are often marked by selfishness and personal advantages, and our narrow and contorted paths are not comparable to the wide and straight streets of the Lord. He uses mercy — do not forget this: He uses mercy —, he forgives broadly, is filled with generosity and kindness which he pours forth on each of us. He opens for everyone the boundless territory of his love and his grace, which alone can give the human heart the fullness of joy.

Jesus wants to make us contemplate the gaze of that landowner: the gaze with which he looks upon each of the labourers searching for work and calls them to go to his vineyard. It is a gaze which is filled with attention, kindness. It is a gaze which calls, invites one to get up and begin a journey because he wants life for each of us; he wants a full, committed life, safe from emptiness and inertia. God excludes no one and wants each of us to achieve his or her fullness. This is the love of our God, of our God who is Father.

4. Charity cycle
This was to have taken place (privately) on Saturday but my bike wasn’t ready (don’t ask!). I’ll be doing the cycle later in September. Many of you have already contributed — I’m very grateful. If you’d still like to be part of the venture, the click here. Last year, you gave €12.500. The collection stands right now at €10,400+. Many thanks to all.

Wishing you all every blessing in the week to come,

Kieran

 Dr Kieran J. O’Mahony OSA
Biblical Studies Coordinator
Holy Cross Diocesan Centre