Is. 55:6-9; Phil. 1:20-24, 27; Mt. 20:1-16
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today’s readings speak of the righteousness and mercy of God. We are reminded that we must seek righteousness in order to receive the mercy of God. During the First Reading from the Book of Isaiah we heard of the Divine calling. Let the wicked forsake their way. Let the unrighteous forsake their thoughts. Return to the Lord! Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. [Is. 55:6]
In today’s Gospel Jesus paints a vivid picture of the kingdom of heaven, using the story of a landowner who went out to hire laborers for his vineyard. This parable is a powerful reminder of God's boundless mercy and the importance of cultivating a generous heart. The thoughts of God are not the thoughts of man. The ways of God are not the ways of man. As the heavens are higher than the earth, the ways of God are higher than the ways of man and the thoughts of God are higher than the thoughts of man.
Today’s parable is a powerful reminder of God's boundless mercy and the importance of cultivating a generous heart. In this story, we see that the landowner hires laborers at different times of the day, from early morning to late afternoon, and even to the eleventh hour. Yet, when the time comes to pay them, he gives each of them the same wage, regardless of how long they worked. This seemingly unequal treatment sparks grumbling and discontent among those who laboured from morning till evening. They question the landowner's fairness, thinking they deserved more for their toil under the scorching sun.
In Fyodor Dostoevsky's classic novel, "The Brothers Karamazov," the character of Father Zossima imparts a lesson on compassion and forgiveness. He tells the story of the thief crucified alongside Jesus, who repents at the last moment and is promised paradise. This thief, like the laborers in the vineyard, received God's grace at the eleventh hour.
In the society in which we live, there is often a relentless pursuit of being first – first in wealth, first in status, first in power. We are bombarded with messages that tell us that success is measured by how much we accumulate, how high we climb the social ladder, or how many people serve our desires. But Jesus, in His divine wisdom, turns this world's notion of success on its head.
Jesus teaches us that the kingdom of heaven operates on a different set of principles. It is a kingdom where the last will be first, and the first will be last. What does this mean for us as Christians, and how can we apply this teaching in our lives?
It gives us three important messages.
First, it reminds us of the importance of humility. To be the last means to be humble, to place the needs of others above our own, and to serve without seeking recognition or reward. Jesus himself embodied this humility when He washed the feet of His disciples, setting an example for us to follow.
Second, it calls us to examine our hearts and intentions. Jesus taught us that true greatness lies in becoming a servant of all. The first shall be last when they put themselves before others, but the last shall be first when they humble themselves in service.
Third, this teaching challenges us to view success through the lens of eternity. In the grand scheme of God's kingdom, worldly accomplishments and accolades fade away. What truly matters is our relationship with God and how we have lived out His commandment to love one another.
One remarkable story of an ordinary person who dedicated their life and wealth to serving humanity is that of Abdul Sattar Edhi, a Pakistani philanthropist and humanitarian. Edhi's life story is a testament to the power of selflessness and unwavering commitment to the welfare of others.
Born in 1928 in Gujarat, British India (now in Pakistan), Edhi experienced poverty and hardship from a young age. His mother suffered from paralysis, and his family struggled to make ends meet. These early experiences of hardship and suffering had a profound impact on his life.
In 1947, during the partition of India and Pakistan, Edhi moved to Pakistan, and it was there that he encountered the devastating effects of poverty, illness, and social injustice. Witnessing the suffering of those less fortunate ignited a deep sense of compassion within him, and he decided to dedicate his life to helping the needy.
Abdul Sattar Edhi started his humanitarian journey with just a small dispensary and an ambulance in Karachi. He began by collecting funds through donations and initially used his family's home as a base for his work. Over time, his organization, the Edhi Foundation, expanded its services to include ambulances, hospitals, orphanages, morgues, and burial services. Edhi's ambulances became a lifeline for those in need, and his services extended to providing care for abandoned children, shelter for the homeless, and assistance to victims of natural disasters.
What set Edhi apart was his unwavering commitment to serving humanity, regardless of race, religion, or nationality. He and his team worked tirelessly to help those often ignored by society. Edhi himself led a simple and frugal life, with no personal wealth or luxuries. He believed that every resource should go towards helping others.
In our contemporary world, we see examples of people who humbly serve others, putting the needs of others ahead of their own, often find a deeper sense of purpose and joy. And we are called to be one among them.