Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Welcome and Introduction – Tonight we have the second part of our homily series, which began last weekend, on being Disciples of Mercy. For those of you who were here this past Sunday, the first part of the series focused on the responsibility that the Lord has given each of us to forgive those who have sinned against us. All of the readings from last weekend gave us the Christian standard for forgiveness – that it is to be offered willingly and without conditions. Jesus told Peter to offer forgiveness without limit – when asked how many times we should forgive, Jesus responded “not seven times, but seventy seven times.” Now, we have been tasked with offering that same limitless forgiveness.
At the end of the homily last weekend, I said that forgiveness is so important because it transforms our hearts; we cannot heal the wounds of our own hearts if we have not first forgiven, because wounds that are not transformed are transmitted. So by offering our limitless forgiveness to those who have hurt us, as difficult as it may be, it opens our hearts to the possibility of wholeness. It creates a space in our hearts where the Lord can abundantly pour out his grace. It allows us to be receptive to the Lord’s generosity.
So the focus of the second part of our series on being Disciples of Mercy is being open to receiving God’s generosity and then bringing that same generosity to our brothers and sisters.
The Lord’s Generosity – What does God’s generosity look like? Throughout the Scriptures, we have instances where the Lord has shown an abundance of His mercy and His grace on those who were closest to Him. Within the Old Testament, that mercy and grace were poured out on the Israelites time and time again, despite the numerous occasions that the Chosen People broke their covenantal relationship with God. The Lord always came through with a promise to never forget His own. We are reminded of this in our first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah – At this point in their history, the people of Israel were enduring the Babylonian exile. They had lost everything and were dwelling in a foreign land, totally removed from the heritage that the Lord had provided for them. They believed that all of this was happening to them because of their sinfulness, for the many times that they turned away from God and went astray, living their lives according to their own wishes. You could say that they were utterly dejected, believing that the Lord had completely abandoned them. But God had sent them a messenger, the prophet Isaiah who encouraged the people to trust in God’s ways, to remind the people that God had not forgotten them.
The message of the Prophet was one of great hope. He assured the Israelites that God was going to deliver them from exile, that they would be restored as a people. Being recipients of God’s mercy in that way was beyond their comprehension and understanding. They couldn’t grasp it. Isaiah was there to bring the people out of their despair and to speak Truth to them. He called the Israelites to turn away from their sinfulness, to turn back to God, to trust that God was going to rescue them. “The prophet calls the people to forsake the short-sighted ways by which they think they will survive. Their survival doesn’t depend on their own cunning and skill but rather on the gracious love of God. Because God does not act as we do;” God is generous, loving, forgiving.1
Generosity of God in the Gospel – That same characteristic of God is echoed in our Gospel passage from Matthew. Jesus again shares a parable with his disciples to teach them that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts nor are God’s ways, our ways. He uses the parable of the landowner to show us something about the Kingdom of Heaven and exactly what God’s generosity looks like.
At the end of the workday, all the workers are paid the same daily wage, regardless of how long each of them worked. At first glance, that might seem a bit unfair because we expect more pay for more work. We believe in a system where people are paid for the work that they put in. God, however, provides a different method of compensation. He gives pay according to need. The landowner – who is a representative of God in this case – pays with justice in mind on the one hand, and mercy and generosity on the other. The parable is meant to show us that God is just as generous to us as He is to those who, from our perspective, don’t necessarily deserve it.
Those who were hired at the very beginning of the day are those who have followed Jesus from the beginning – the Apostles, many of his disciples. Those who were hired during the middle part of the day are those who would eventually come to believe in Jesus – converts to the Christian religion from other religious affiliations. Those who were hired at the end of the day are those who only come to believe in Jesus at the very end of their lives. So the parable can actually be interpreted as a sign of hope for everyone. It doesn’t matter when you come to accept Jesus as the Savior of the World; it matters that you simply come to believe in Him and allow that belief in Him to totally transform your lives. So this message was intended to be a message of hope for people like the Scribes and the Pharisees, the tax collectors and the prostitutes, the Gentiles and the Jews…for you and me. God is generous to all of His children. Everyone has a place in the Kingdom of God. All that is required is to come to faith in Jesus.
Coming to Faith in Jesus – Each of us has had multiple encounters with the Lord at different points in our lives – even if we are not fully aware of those encounters. We have all received an abundant outpouring of his grace through the Sacraments, through experiences in prayer, through reading Scripture, through interactions with friends and family members. And it is through those experiences that we come to have a deeper sense of faith in Jesus. He has generously given Himself to us in order to remind us of God’s love. He has walked with us in our sufferings, accompanied us in our sorrows, lifted us from our trials, rejoiced with us in our accomplishments, and celebrated with us in our victories. And because He has been generous to us in this way, all He asks us to do is to be generous back to Him and to be generous with each other. Are we responding to Him out of generosity? Are we giving Him the time that He deserves in prayer? Are we turning to Him and begging Him for His help when we are faced with temptations? Are we seeking to know Him more intimately by reading Scripture daily? Are we loving our neighbors, being generous with them as He has asked us to be? Are we being Disciples of Mercy?
Just Be Yourself – We don’t have to do something extraordinary to be generous with God or with others. We just have to be ourselves. He made us who we are and has been generous to us by giving us unique graces that make us more fully ourselves. It is through those unique gifts that we are now called to be generous. Each of us has unique talents, various passions, different motivations that the Lord is inviting us to be generous with… things that the Lord is asking us to use in order to be Disciples of Mercy, to remind others of how much He loves us and cares for us.
Soon-to-be Blessed Carlo Acutis – A few years ago, there was a young Catholic teenager named Carlo Acutis in Italy who understood this at the very core of his being. He was kind of a geek who had a passion for computer programming, film editing, website creation, and laying out comics. But he also had a deep love of the Eucharist. Carlo would attend Mass and spend hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament every single day. Eventually, he started reading up on the various Eucharistic miracles that happened around the world. So he had a grand idea of designing a website to help people learn more about those miracles and begged his parents to take him to each of the places where those miracles occurred. He even helped create a traveling presentation on those miracles which has now visited hundreds of countries around the world. Then, things changed in his life.
One day, Carlo was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. In his suffering, he united himself ever more closely to Jesus and offered his illness for the intentions of Pope Benedict XVI and for the Church. His mother is quoted as saying: “With this intense spiritual life, Carlo has fully and generously lived his fifteen years of life, leaving a profound impact on those who knew him…His immense generosity made him interested in everyone: the foreigners, the handicapped, children, beggars. To be close to Carlo was to be close to a fountain of fresh water.”
Sadly, Carlo passed away on October 12, 2006. However, because of his Christian virtues and his love of the Eucharist, many began calling for Carlo to be beatified. After some investigation into his life, Pope Francis declared Carlo a Servant of God in July 2018, the first step on the road to sainthood. In February of this year, Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Carlo – the healing of a young boy in Brazil from a life-threatening illness of the pancreas. Carlo will be beatified on October 10th in Assisi.
Conclusion – Carlo’s life and example shows us what the Lord can do in and through us when we recognize how He has blessed us and respond to Him generously. When we truly embrace the invitation to be generous with our lives, the Lord will use us as instruments that bring others to an encounter with Him, that will bring others to a deeper faith in Jesus. Are we willing to allow God to use us in that way? Are we willing to be generous with our gifts? May our prayer today be one of thanksgiving, being generous to God with our appreciation for the love He has extended to each of us in Jesus. We ask that He might continue giving us, through the Holy Spirit, the grace and the courage to respond to Him. May we respond generously today to his invitation to be Disciples of Mercy.
1 Irene Nowell, “Psalm 145” in Sing a New Song: The Psalms in the Sunday Lectionary, (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), 215.