"Go into my vineyard you too." 25 Sunday 2017

 Friends, the more I look around and consider various terrible events, cruelty, conflicts, aggression, hatred, threat, indifference, hopelessness, greed, immorality, lies, wars, disasters, murder, godlessness, it feels like God has nothing to do with the world and what is happening here. Compared to this world, Sodom and Gomorrah seems to have had reverence for God. God visited Abraham and informed him of the cruelty in Sodom and Gomorrah. The godlessness of Sodom and Gomorrah seems nothing compared to the godlessness of our world today. Ours can truly be called an ‘evil generation’. It is first and foremost the sin that cry to God. Wickedness, Cruelty, injustice against fellow human beings cry to God like the blood of Abel. The towns of Sodom of Gomorrah would demand apology from God for destroying them and leaving our world basking in godlessness. Why has God not destroyed our world? We have our answer in what we read from Prophet Isaiah: "Behold, my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways, says the Lord. No, as much as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts "(55: 6-9).

Sometimes we end up in situations where we ask if God is with us, if he answers when we cry to him. The first reading this day confirms that God is hearing, our salvation forever and everywhere.  Humans do not have unlimited time to seek the Lord (Isaiah 55: 6-9). Therefore, time is crucial. It is important that we use our time in a sensible way for what is essential in life. Our mission in life is to strive to allow our will, our thoughts and our actions to conform with God's. It's not enough to just call the Lord when in distress. Those who call upon him must do so with sincere hearts. That God cares for his people and hears when they call upon him are also confirmed by today's psalmist (Ps 145: 17-18). Scripture has eternal validity as the word of God. In all times and places, it speaks to us.

Today, we hear both in the second reading (Phil. 1: 20c-24, 27a) and the gospel (Matthew 20: 1-16) questions about unemployment, job creation, resource distribution, generosity and justice. The same issues deal with ethics in society. By nature, we are called to work. The purpose of this work is to be the source of joy and love in action. By working, human beings contribute to completing the world that is on its way to its completion. Regrettably, instead of work, people have turned it into job, something that of course is difficult. Now the purpose of work is only to make money which in turn has become an end. Unfortunately, unemployment is increasing in many countries. In some countries, especially in poor countries, it reaches 80 percent. Many people who have work are under-employed or underpaid. Many people today live in constant concern of the risk of losing their work. Creating jobs and distributing the available jobs often create ethical problems. In many countries, unemployment causes agitations and protests. Revolutions are often due to unemployment, abuse of power, corruption and injustice that beset societies.  Equity and justice are in very short supply in our world.  It is a world that benefits few and condemns many to a life of misery.  Many oppose the system which make the rich richer and the poor poorer. They demand that the world's resources be distributed fairly among all people. This is the Gospel spirit.

Jesus uses a parable in today's gospel to tell of a landowner who goes out to hire workers to his vineyard at different hours of the day. What is told in today's gospel text is still happening in many countries (Matthew 20: 1-16). People seeking work gather at the city square to wait to be hired by someone. "Why are you here all day without working?" They replied, "Because no one has hired us." "Go to the vineyard, too." At the end of the day, Jesus treats these different groups equally and pays them a dinar each for a day’s job. Was this just and fair? How can such treatment of workers who had put in different hours of work be justified? Intuitively, many of us would say that Jesus' treatments of the workers who had been hired at first were not fair, even though he had an agreement with them to pay them a dinar for a day’s job. Those who came last were paid as much as those who came first. This prompted those whom he had hired to early that day to protest. Jesus' actions offer us possibility to ponder and reflect on the nature of justice, generosity from the perspective of God.  Were those men who were hired early entitled to protest? Life creates dilemmas and conflicts. In the story, we can see how God's way of thinking and acting conflicts with the human way of thinking and acting. The conflict revolves around different principles namely justice, equity, agreement and goodness or generosity. Every human is entitled to work. It is in our present state's duty to ensure that the inhabitants have work. Man confirms his dignity through work. Without labour, humans feel a sense of lack of self-esteem and dignity. Unfortunately, many in our time are unemployed and underemployed. They are out of work because no one has hired them or they cannot create work for themselves.

­­­That we can end up in an ethical dilemma we see in the second reading where Saint Paul had difficulty choosing if he should live or die. Finally, Paul preferred to live to serve his people. Paul also believes that the whole person is called to praise God not only with the soul but also with the body. Without God, everything is meaningless. The dilemma in today's gospel can be said to be a matter of resource allocation and the need for fair wages to workers. Probably, the different groups had arrived at the same time early in the morning to wait for someone to hire them for the day. In many countries, we can still see this situation. Workers come to the town square every morning to wait for someone who may need a day-worker. The first group was lucky when they got work early, while the other groups had to wait all day for someone to offer them work. It was probably not their fault that nobody came to hire them until the eleventh hour. They were perhaps desperate and frustrated during those hours they had to wait. If we compare how they had suffered from unemployment during those hours and how the first group who claimed to have worked all day in the hot sun, it is still difficult to say which group had suffered most that day.

We can understand the feelings of the first workers when they saw that the last workers received the same pay as they themselves. To understand Jesus' actions in this specific situation, it is important to listen to what God says through the prophet Isaiah in the first reading: "Behold, my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways. No, so much as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts "(Isaiah 55). Against this background, we can understand Jesus responding to the protests of the first workers, saying, "My friend, I am not unfair to you".

The teaching of Jesus is forever revolutionary. The world has yet to try it. Self-interest does not allow people to hear each other. We say we want peace while when we speak for war. Around the world, politicians, business people, fight and capital owners fight for their interests. People die of poverty while leaders entrusted with peoples’ resources take everything for themselves. Instead of being a servant, they are masters. The world and its people have enough resources for everyone's thirst and hunger. But greed of those who are chosen to lead the people and the capital owners stand in the way and do not want to let change happen.

Even though God created us to his likeness, his image, he is still different to us in everything because he exists in himself. We can only exist in him. God's transcendence has led some people to believe that he is not a personal God for every person, a God who cares about individuals. God is a personal God who is not an abstract God. He is close and is a true friend of all who seek him. God exists outside of time. He is always, but our days are limited. We can only search him while we are on this earth. It's the time we have. Therefore, we hear: "Seek the Lord while he is there, call him while he is near" (Isaiah 55: 6). For us to come close to him, we need to repent, our mindset and our way of thinking, acting must change to conform to Gods. When you accept your complete powerlessness, God can show you the endless depth of his power. Whatever happens in our lives or in the world, we must not forget that God has promised that everything will work together for the best of those who hope in him. We always need such a conviction as Christians.

Apostle Paul writes: "To me, to live is Christ and death is a gain. I long for breaking up and being with Christ, that would be the very best. But for your sake, it's more important that I stay here. Do you live in a way worthy of Christ's gospel? "People today proclaim personal gain instead of God's glory. Paul wrote this text from a prison in Rome (61-63 AD) or Ephesus (56 AD). Paul did not know if his imprisonment would end in death or liberation, but whatever happens, it becomes God's glory. Paul warns the congregation of Philippi about some enemies of the gospel and urges them to faithfulness. This means we are doing everything to the glory of God; whether we eat and drink or whatever we do to the glory of God "(1 Cor 10:31). The mission of the apostle Paul was to proclaim the gospel and he had great success in this among the Gentiles. From year 39-69 he worked with all his power to spread the gospel. Like all of us, he had a lot of worries just like us today, yet the gospel came before all else in his life. Our mission as a Christian is to live the gospel daily so that we testify of Christ and win people for him.

Those who were hired early in the morning protested. Their perception of justice and equality was wrong. "I'm not unfair to you, says the employer. Some people look with evil eyes that I'm good. " If those who had been hired early in the morning had been paid first, they would not have known how much those who worked for only an hour were paid. Those who were hired early had a contract while the employer had only promised to pay those who he hired much latter fairly. God has chosen to give the Gentiles access to heaven just as he had done to the Jews. Salvation is a gift of God. It is provided free of charge. Nobody deserves it. Baptism is a gift we can never thank enough for. Today's likeness can give us hope and encouragement. It may be the sixth or ninth or even the eleventh hour of our lives. We can still enter the kingdom of heaven if we listen to God's voice and work in his vineyard. My is the day of salvation. God will be as generous to us as the height of heaven. Now is the time to seek God. If we live dignified Christ's gospel, we sometimes wonder. Then we do not have to run here and there to receive his mercy and grace.

This parable is primarily a parable of the kingdom of heaven. There is nothing more that demonstrates this than the experience of the regrettable thief who dies next to Jesus on the cross. "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). It does not matter if you have known Jesus from the earliest days of youth life or if you get to know him on your deathbed. It is never too late to turn to grace, our Lord Jesus Christ, and repent of their sins; You can call his name on a certain day and at a certain hour and be transferred from the kingdom of darkness into a kingdom of light and salvation. It's never too late; The fruits of regret will never be based on the length of your service in his vineyard. Jesus calls, "Come into my vineyard". As you stand idle on the square in the world, he extends the divine invitation to you to come and work for him. If you come to Yahweh on this eleventh hour, you are redeemed from the wages of sin, death. It is now the last hour, when the clock turns twelve, it will be a dark hour, and it will inevitably be too late, it will be dark and you must make an account of God Father for his spiritual impotence. Chikezie Onuoha msp

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