25th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 20 September 2020

Scripture Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 55:6-9; Responsorial: Psalm 145; II: Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a; Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16a

As the season of Autumn approaches the weather changes and the winds start to bring the hope of rain and cooler weather. So it is in the Church. As we seek to listen to the Holy Spirit this 25th Sunday of Ordinary the Scriptures would sharpen our focus upon the Kingdom of God, upon Christ the King. Through the parables Jesus powerfully shared He would often begin as He does in our Gospel today: “The Kingdom of God is…”

The other readings we share today speak to this promise and challenge with the emphasis begun by Isaiah the prophet: “Seek the Lord, while He is near…turn to the Lord for mercy…who is generous and forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”

In the Gospel, Jesus shares a parable that could seem to challenge our very basic understanding of fairness and justice. In the story of the landowner and the vineyard workers the story of their respective work and wages concludes with Jesus repeating a message threaded throughout His ministry: “Thus, the last will be first and the first will be last.” Is the Kingdom of God unfair? Is our service for God fraught with uncertain benefits? Or is this another eloquent lesson of how majestically different are the ways of God from our ways?

One of the most dangerous and poisonous vipers of deception in the world today is that of entitlement. The concept of believing not in God and God’s Kingdom but in self and ALL to which one may THINK one is entitled has spread to people of all ages and backgrounds. Politicians, media, entertainment and even some Christians play the hymns of self fulfillment with great passion and faith. But the false gospels never match the Gospel of Jesus.

So how do we realize and enter into the way of the Kingdom of God, the ways of Jesus? How do we understand this journey and how the last shall be first? A story from Calvary can help us.

The Last Shall Be First

St. Dismas

The heavy beam crushed

the body, the soul of Dismas.

Hope was gone.

His journey to this hill was finished.

The heavy beam,

the most that

was ever truly his,

dropped,

to the rocky, barren dirt.

Hope was gone.

Soon the nails pierced,

His hands, his feet,

that he had used

for stealing, for sin, for self.

The heavy beams

Dismas and the other thief

had carried now

carried them to justice.

To die.

But the third man,

He was different.

The crowds, the soldiers,

The priests and scribes

All crowded to be first.

To mock and taunt,

with their hate, their fear.

Even his fellow thief joined 

the chorus of darkness 

sung by so many

that were there.

 But Dismas could not

the mocking join.

He knew what he deserved,

to what he was entitled.

But the other man, 

a few called Him Lord

a few called Him Jesus.

He was different.

Dismas could see.

He knew.

Jesus would soon die.

The beatings, the cruelty, the hate,

The growing darkness he crushing, felt.

Jesus would soon die.

The pain, the fear of Dismas

pierced and crushed

his broken soul.

But something else was now his,

An heartbreaking sadness,

For Jesus,

for his suffering.

To his fading senses Dismis heard

His own voice gasping for Jesus,

“Lord,

 remember me,

 when you come into your kingdom.”

In words he never thought possible

 from anyone,

the first true words of hope 

Dismas had ever heard,

 Jesus quietly gasped in return:

“Today you will be with me in paradise.”

And through the crown of thorns,

and His bloody tears,

Jesus looked to him.

And Dismas knew

forgiveness, mercy, hope had found him.

Dismas knew Jesus.

by H. Martin

[Tradition is that the name of the penitent thief who was crucified with Jesus was called Dismas]