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Liturgical day: Wednesday 20th in Ordinary Time

1st Reading (Ezek 34:1-11): The word of the Lord came to me: «Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, in these words prophesy to them to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered for the lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered and wandered over all the mountains and high hills; my sheep were scattered over the whole earth, with no one to look after them or to search for them.

»Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As I live, says the Lord God, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; because my shepherds did not look after my sheep, but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep; because of this, shepherds, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God: I swear I am coming against these shepherds. I will claim my sheep from them and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep so that they may no longer pasture themselves. I will save my sheep, that they may no longer be food for their mouths. For thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep».
Responsorial Psalm: 22
R/. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.

He guides me in right paths for his name's sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.

You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Only goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.
Versicle before the Gospel (Heb 4:12): Alleluia. The word of God is living and effective, able to discern the reflections and thoughts of the heart. Alleluia.

Gospel text (Mt 20,1-16): Jesus said to his disciples, «This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven. A landowner went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the workers a salary of a silver coin for the day, and sent them to his vineyard. He went out again at about nine in the morning, and seeing others idle in the square, he said to them: ‘You, too, go to my vineyard and I will pay you what is just’. So they went. The owner went out at midday and again at three in the afternoon, and he did the same. Finally he went out at the last working hour —it was the eleventh— and he saw others standing there. So he said to them: ‘Why do you stay idle the whole day?’ They answered: ‘Because no one has hired us’. The master said: ‘Go and work in my vineyard’.

»When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager: ‘Call the workers and pay them their wage, beginning with the last and ending with the first’. Those who had come to work at the eleventh hour turned up and were given a denarius each (a silver coin). When it was the turn of the first, they thought they would receive more. But they, too, received a denarius each. So, on receiving it, they began to grumble against the landowner. They said: ‘These last hardly worked an hour, yet you have treated them the same as us who have endured the day’s burden and heat’. The owner said to one of them: ‘Friend, I have not been unjust to you. Did we not agree on a denarius a day? So take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last the same as I give to you. Don't I have the right to do as I please with my money? Why are you envious when I am kind?’. So will it be: the last will be first, the first will be last».

«The last will be first, the first will be last»

Fr. Antoni CAROL i Hostench
(Sant Cugat del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain)

Today, God's Word invites us to realize that divine “logic” goes beyond merely human logic. While we, men, calculate («they thought they would receive more»: Mt 20:10), God —who is a dear Father too—, simply loves («Why are you envious when I am kind?»: Mt 20:15). And the measure of love is to have no measure: «I love because I love, I love to love» (St. Bernard).

However, this does not mean justice is pointless: «I will pay you what is just» (Mt 20:4). God is not arbitrary and He wants to treat us as intelligent sons: it is, therefore, logic He makes “deals” with us. In fact, some other times, the Lord's teachings clearly state that who has received more will also be demanded more (let us remember the Parable of the Talents). In short, God is just, but charity does not conflict with justice; it rather goes beyond (cf. 1Cor 13:5).

A popular saying asserts that «justice per se is the worst injustice». Luckily for us, God's justice —let us repeat it again— exceeds our schemes. If it would be a matter of mere and strict justice, we would still be pending of redemption. What is even more, we would not have any hope of redemption. In strict justice, we should not deserve any redemption: we would simply remain disowned of what we were given in the moment of Creation and we rejected with the original sin. So, when we have to deal with others let us examine ourselves, to find out how are we doing regarding judgments, comparisons and estimations.

Furthermore, if we are talking about saintliness, we have to start from the basis that all is grace. The most evident sample is the case of Dimas, the good thief. Not only, the possibility of being deserving before God is also a grace (something that is freely given to us). God is the master, our «landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard» (Mt 20:1). The vineyard (that is, life, heaven...) is his; we are just invited there and not just in any way: it is a privilege to be able to work there and be eventually “rewarded” with heaven.