Papal Homilies

25th Sunday of Year A

September 24, 2023

September 24, 2023

Pope Francis

The Call and the Recompense

20 September 2020 | Saint Peter’s Square

25th Sunday of Year A

Today’s passage from the Gospel (cf. Mt 20:1-16) recounts the parable of the labourers called to put in a day’s work by the owner of the vineyard. Through this narrative, Jesus shows us the surprising way God acts, represented by two of the owner’s attitudes: the call and the recompense.

First of all, the call. Five times the owner of the vineyard goes out and calls people to work for him: at six, at nine, at twelve, at three and at five in the afternoon. The image of this owner, who goes out numerous times to look for day labourers for his vineyard, is touching. That owner represents God who calls everyone and calls always, at any hour. Even today, God acts this way: he continues to call anyone, at whatever hour, to invite them to work in his Kingdom. This is God’s way, which, in our turn, we are called to receive and to imitate. He does not stay shut in within his world, but “goes out”: God always goes out, in search of us; he is not closed up — God goes out. He continually seeks out people, because he does not want anyone to be excluded from his loving plan.

Our communities are also called to go out to the various types of “boundaries” that there might be, to offer everyone the word of salvation that Jesus came to bring. It means being open to horizons in life that offer hope to those stationed on the existential peripheries, who have not yet experienced, or have lost, the strength and the light that comes with meeting Christ. The Church needs to be like God: always going out; and when the Church does not go out, she becomes sick with the many evils we have in the Church. And why are these illnesses in the Church? Because she does not go out. It is true that when someone goes out there is the danger of getting into an accident. But better a Church that gets into accidents because she goes out to proclaim the Gospel, than a Church that is sick because she stays in. God always goes out because he is a Father, because he loves. The Church must do the same: always go out.

The owner’s second attitude, representing God’s, is his way of compensating the workers. How does God pay? The owner agrees to “one denarius” (v. 2) with the first workers he hired in the morning. Instead, to those he hired later, he says: “Whatever is right I will give you” (v. 4). At the end of the day, the owner of the vineyard orders that everyone be given the same pay, that is, one denarius. Those who had worked since morning are outraged and complain against the owner, but he insists: he wants to give the maximum pay to everyone, even to those who arrived last (vv. 8-15). God always pays the maximum amount: he does not pay halfway. He pays everything. Here we understand that Jesus is not speaking about work and fair wages — that is another problem — but about the Kingdom of God and the goodness of the heavenly Father who goes out continually to invite, and he pays everyone the maximum amount.

In fact, God behaves like this: he does not look at the time and at the results, but at the availability; he looks at the generosity with which we put ourselves at his service. His way of acting is more than just, in the sense that it goes beyond justice and is manifested in Grace. Everything is Grace. Our salvation is Grace. Our holiness is Grace. In giving us Grace, he bestows on us more than what we merit. And so, those who reason using human logic, that is, the logic of the merits acquired through one’s own greatness, from being first, find themselves last. “But, I have worked a lot, I have done so much in the Church, I have helped a lot and they pay me the same as this person who arrived last…”. Let us remember who was the first canonized saint in the Church: the Good Thief. He “stole” Paradise at the last minute of his life: this is Grace. This is what God is like, even with us. Instead, those who seek thinking of their own merits fail; those who humbly entrust themselves to the Father’s mercy, rather than being last — like the Good Thief — find themselves first (cf. v. 16).


The Logic of the Father’s Love

24 September 2017 | Saint Peter’s Square

25th Sunday of Year A

In today’s Gospel reading (cf Mt 20:1-16) there is the parable of the day labourers in the vineyard, which Jesus recounts in order to explain two aspects of the Kingdom of God: the first is that God wants to call everyone to work for his Kingdom; the second is that, in the end, he wants to give everyone the same reward, that is, salvation, eternal life.

The owner of the vineyard who represents God, goes out at dawn and hires a group of workers, agreeing with them on the day’s wages. It was a fair wage. Then he goes out again [several times] later in the day — he goes out five times on that day — until the late afternoon to hire other unemployed labourers whom he sees. At the end of the day, the landowner orders that a denarius be paid to everyone, even to those who had only worked for a few hours. Naturally, the labourers who were hired first complain because they see that they are paid as much as those who worked for fewer hours. The landowner however, reminds them about what had been agreed; if he then wants to be generous with the others, they should not be envious.

In reality, this “injustice” of the owner serves to provoke in those listening to the parable a qualitative leap because here Jesus does not want to speak about the issue of work or of a fair wage, but about the Kingdom of God! And this is the message: there are no unemployed people in the Kingdom of God. Everyone is called to do their part; and there will be a reward from divine justice for everyone in the end — not from human [justice], luckily! —, but the salvation that Jesus Christ acquired for us with his death and Resurrection, a salvation which is not deserved, but donated — salvation is free — thus, “the last will be the first and the first last” (Mt 20:16).

With this parable, Jesus wants to open our hearts to the logic of the Father’s love which is free and generous. It is about allowing oneself to be astonished and fascinated by the “thoughts” and the “ways” of God which, as the Prophet Isaiah recalls, are not our thoughts and not our ways (cf Is 55:8). Human thoughts are often marked by selfishness and personal advantages, and our narrow and contorted paths are not comparable to the wide and straight streets of the Lord. He uses mercy — do not forget this: He uses mercy —, he forgives broadly, is filled with generosity and kindness which he pours forth on each of us. He opens for everyone the boundless territory of his love and his grace, which alone can give the human heart the fullness of joy.

Jesus wants to make us contemplate the gaze of that landowner: the gaze with which he looks upon each of the labourers searching for work and calls them to go to his vineyard. It is a gaze which is filled with attention, kindness. It is a gaze which calls, invites one to get up and begin a journey because he wants life for each of us; he wants a full, committed life, safe from emptiness and inertia. God excludes no one and wants each of us to achieve his or her fullness. This is the love of our God, of our God who is Father.

May Mary Most Holy help us welcome into our lives the logic of love which frees us from the presumption of deserving God’s reward and from the critical judgement of others.



5 October 2014 | Saint Peter’s Square

25th Sunday of Year A



SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Pope Benedict XVI

Laborer in the Vineyard

21 September 2008 | Papal Summer Residence, Castel Gandolfo

25th Sunday of Year A

You may remember that when I addressed the crowd in St Peter’s Square on the day of my election it came naturally to me to introduce myself as a labourer in the vineyard of the Lord. Well, in today’s Gospel (cf. Mt 20: 1-16), Jesus recounted the very same parable of the owner of the vineyard who at different hours of the day hires labourers to work in it. And in the evening he gives them all the same wages, one denarius, provoking protests from those who began work early. That denarius clearly represents eternal life, a gift that God reserves for all. Indeed those who are considered the “last”, if they accept, become the “first”, whereas the “first” can risk becoming the “last”. The first message of this parable is inherent in the very fact that the landowner does not tolerate, as it were, unemployment: he wants everyone to be employed in his vineyard. Actually, being called is already the first reward: to be able to work in the Lord’s vineyard, to put oneself at his service, to collaborate in his work, is in itself a priceless recompense that repays every effort. Yet only those who love the Lord and his Kingdom understand this: those who instead work only for the pay will never realize the value of this inestimable treasure. 

It is St Matthew who recounts this parable, an apostle and an evangelist, whose liturgical feast day we are celebrating on this very day. I like to emphasize that Matthew lived this experience in the first person (cf. Mt 9: 9). Indeed, before Jesus called him he worked as a tax collector and was therefore seen as a public sinner, excluded from “the Lord’s vineyard”. But everything changed when Jesus passed by his table, looked at him and said to him: “Follow me”. Matthew rose and followed him. From a publican he immediately became a disciple of Christ. From being “last” he found himself “first”, thanks to God’s logic, which – for our good fortune! – is different from the logic of the world. “My thoughts are not your thoughts”, the Lord says, speaking through the mouth of Isaiah, “neither are your ways my ways” (Is 55: 8).

St Paul, for whom we are celebrating a special Jubilee Year, also experienced the joy of feeling called by the Lord to work in his vineyard. And what a lot of work he accomplished! Yet, as he himself confessed, it was God’s grace which worked in him, that grace which from persecutor of the Church transformed him into an Apostle to the Gentiles, to the point of saying: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” However he immediately added: “If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell” (Phil 1: 21-22). Paul clearly understood that working for the Lord is already a reward on this earth.


SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Pope St. John Paul II

“Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27)

19 September 1987 | Pontiac Silverdome, Detroit

25th Sunday of Year A

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

1. The apostle Paul addresses this appeal to the Christians of Philippi. And today the Church’s liturgy repeats this appeal to all who believe in Christ. As my visit to your country comes to an end, it is my special joy this evening to reflect on those words with you, the people of the Church in Detroit, as well as visitors from elsewhere in Michigan, from nearby Canada and from other areas. 

From the humble beginnings of the foundation of Detroit in the year 1701, the proclamation of God’s word in this region has continued unbroken, despite hardships and setbacks, and has reached a level of maturity and a fruitfulness unimagined by the early missionaries. Many years separate us from the first celebration of the Eucharist by the priests who accompanied Cadillac, the founder of Detroit, and yet we know that our communion this evening in the Body and Blood of Christ also links us with them and with all who have gone before us in faith

With you I give thanks to God for the courage, dedication and perseverance of the many clergy, religious and laity who worked so hard during all these years, first to share their faith with the Native Americans of this area, and then to preserve and spread the faith among those of almost every race and nation who settled here. I also give thanks with you for the intrepid Catholic faith of so many of your parents and grandparents who came to Michigan in order to find liberty and in order to build a better life for themselves and especially for you, their children and grandchildren. Whatever may be the path by which you have received the gift of your Catholic faith, it is due in some measure to those who have gone before you here. Their voices are joined to that of Saint Paul when he says to us: “Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ”. 

2. We read this exhortation this evening in the light of the Gospel parable of the workers sent by the owner of an estate into his vineyard, after he has agreed with them on the daily wage. Our Lord often taught through parables like this one. By using images from daily life, he led his hearers to insights about the Kingdom or Reign of God. Using parables, he was able to raise their minds and hearts from what is seen to what is unseen. When we remember that the things of this world already bear the imprint of God’s Kingdom, it is not surprising that the imagery of the parables is so well suited to the Gospel message. 

On the one hand, the vineyard of which Jesus speaks is an earthly reality, as is the work to be done in it. On the other hand, the vineyard is an image of the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom is described in the Gospel as “the vineyard of the Lord”. 

3. Let us reflect for a moment on the first of these realities – the earthly vineyard – as a workplace, as the place where you and I must earn our daily bread. As I said in the encyclical Laborem Exercens: “Man must work, both because the Creator has commanded it and because of his own humanity, which requires work in order be maintained and developed. Man must work out of regard for others, especially his own family, but also for the society he is a child, and the whole human family of which he is a member since he is the heir to the work of generations and at the same time a sharer in building the future of those who will come after him in the succession of history” (Ioannis Pauli PP. II Laborem Exercens, 16). 

Accordingly, the Church considers it her task to focus attention on the dignity and rights of workers, to condemn violations of that dignity and those rights, and to provide guidance for authentic human progress (Cfr. ibid. 1). The Church’s goal is to uplift ever more the family of mankind in the light of Christ’s word and by its power. 

Central to the Church’s teaching is the conviction that people are more important than things; that work is “for man” and not man “for work”; that the person is both the subject and purpose of all work and cannot be reduced to a mere instrument of production; that the person is to be valued for what he or she is rather than for what he or she owns (Cfr. ibid. 6. 12; Gaudium et Spes, 35). This last truth in particular reminds us that the only gift we can offer God that is truly worthy of him is the gift of ourselves, as we discover in the message of today’s Gospel parable. 

4. That message, as I mentioned, has to do with a spiritual reality, the Kingdom of God, towards which Jesus seeks to raise the minds and hearts of his listeners. He begins today’s parable with the words: “The reign of God is like the case of the owner of an estate who went out at dawn to hire workmen for his vineyard” (Matth. 20, 1). That our Lord is speaking about more than just human work and wages should be clear from the owner’s actions and the ensuing conflict between him and some of the workers. It is not that the owner refuses to honour the agreement about wages. The dispute arises because he gives the same pay to everybody, whether the person worked all day or only part of the day. Each receives the sum which had been agreed upon. Thus the owner of the estate shows generosity to the latecomers, to the indignation of those who had worked all day. To them this generosity seems to be an injustice. And what response does the owner give? “I am free”, he says, “to do as I please with my money, am I not? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matth. 20, 15). 

In this parable we find one of those seeming contradictions, those paradoxes, that appear in the Gospel. It arises from the fact that the parable is describing two different standards. One is the standard by which justice is measured by things. The other standard belongs to the Kingdom of God, in which the way of measuring is not the just distribution of things but the giving of a gift, and, ultimately, the greatest gift of all – the gift of self

5. The owner of the estate pays the workers according to the value of their work, that is, the sum of one denarius. But in the Kingdom of God the pay or wages is God himself. This is what Jesus is trying to teach. When it comes to salvation in the Kingdom of God, it is not a question of just wages but of the undeserved generosity of God, who gives himself as the supreme gift to each and every person who shares in divine life through sanctifying grace. 

Such a recompense or reward cannot be measured in material terms. When a person gives the gift of self, even in human relations, the gift cannot be measured in quantity. The gift is one and undivided because the giver is one and undivided. 

How can we receive such a gift? We look to Saint Paul for an answer. His words in the Letter to the Philippians are fascinating: “I firmly trust and anticipate that I shall never be put to shame for my hopes… Christ will be exalted through me, whether I live or die. For, to me, ‘life’ means Christ; hence dying is so much gain” (Phil. 1, 20-21). 

With these words of Saint Paul we find ourselves at the very heart of that standard of measurement which belongs to the kingdom of heaven. When we receive a gift, we must respond with a gift. We can only respond to the gift of God in Jesus Christ – his Cross and Resurrection – in the way that Paul responded – with the gift of ourselves. All that Paul is, is contained in this gift of self, both his life and his death. The gift of a person’s life cannot be valued merely in terms of the number of hours spent in an earthly vineyard. 

Saint Paul, and everyone like him, realizes that one can never match or equal the value of God’s gift of himself to us. The only measure that applies is the measure of love. And love’s measure, as Saint Bernard says, is to love without measure (S. Bernardi De Diligendo Deo, I, 1). This makes it possible for the last to be first, and the first last (Cfr. Matth. 20, 16). 

6. There is another episode, in the Gospel of Luke, when Jesus says to one of the pharisees who is scandalized at the behaviour of a woman known to be a sinner: her many sins are forgiven-because of her great love” (Luc. 7, 47). We do well to reflect upon the love in the heart of this woman, who washed the Lord’s feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. We can imagine the bitter sorrow that led her to such an extravagant gesture. Yet by giving herself humbly to God, she discovered the far greater and underserved gift of which we have spoken, namely, God’s gift of himself to her. Through this exchange of gifts, the woman found herself once again, only now she was healed and restored. “Your sins are forgiven”, Jesus says to her, “… go in peace” (Ibid. 7, 48). 

For us too, sinners that we are, it is all too easy to squander our love, to use it in the wrong way. And like the pharisee, we do not easily understand the power of love to transform. Only in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Christ do we come to see that love is the measure of all things in the Kingdom of God, because “God is love” (1Io. 4, 8). We can fully experience love in this life only through faith and repentance.

7. “Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ”. As Christians we live and work in this world, which is symbolized by the vineyard, but at the same time we are called to work in the vineyard of the Lord. We live this visible earthly life and at the same time the life of the Kingdom of God, which is the ultimate destiny and vocation of every person. How then are we to conduct ourselves worthily in regard to these two realities?

In the Credo of the People of God proclaimed by my predecessor Paul VI, we find an answer to that question, an answer that reflects the faith of the Church in the light of the Second Vatican Council, particularly the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World: “We confess that the Kingdom of God… is not of this world… and that its growth cannot be confused with the progress of civilization, science or technology. The true growth of the Kingdom of God consists in an ever deeper knowledge of the unfathomable riches of Christ, in an ever stronger hope in eternal blessings, in an ever more fervent response to the love of God… But this same love also leads the Church to show constant concern for the true temporal welfare of people . . . Although the Church does not cease to remind her children that here they have no lasting city, she also urges them to contribute, according to their vocation and means, to the welfare of this their earthly home . . . and to devote themselves to helping the poorest and neediest of their brothers and sisters. This intense solicitude of the Church…  for the needs of people, their joys and hopes, their griefs and labours, is nothing other than her great desire to be present with them in order to illuminate them with the light of Christ and gather them into one in him who alone is their Saviour” (Pauli VI “Credo” Populi Dei, die 30 iun. 1968:Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, VI (1968) 289ss). 

Dear brothers and sisters: these words tell us what is meant by conduct worthy of the Gospel of Christ – that Gospel which we have heard and believed, and are called to live every day. And today in this Eucharistic sacrifice we offer our work, our activities, our whole lives to the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ. We call upon God to accept the gift of ourselves. 

8. “The Lord is just in all his ways 
and holy in all his works. 
The Lord is near to all who call upon him, 
to all who call upon him in truth” (Ps. 145(144), 17-18). 

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks in the name of the Lord, who in the Gospel parable is symbolized by the owner of the vineyard. The Lord says: “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways… As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above our thoughts” (Is. 55, 8-9).

And so, my brothers and sisters, “Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ”, that is to say, measure the things of this world by the standard of the Kingdom of God
Not the other way around! 

Not the other way around! 
“Seek the Lord while he may be found, call to him while he is near” (Ibid. 55, 6). 
He is near!
 The Lord is near! 
The Kingdom of God is within us. Amen.


Holy See Homily Notes

25th Sunday of Year A

September 24, 2023

September 24, 2023

Dicastery for the Clergy

Homily Notes

Theme of Readings

The Way of the Christian

“Way” is a word that recurs very frequently in the Bible, and is explicitly or implicitly present in this Sunday’s liturgy. First of all, there is the way of man. “They grumbled at the householder, saying, These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have born the burden of the day and the scorching heat” (Mt 20: 11-12). Then there is the way of God, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity” (Mt 20: 13-15). This is why, in the first reading we read: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Is 55: 8). Finally, the way of the Christian is shown to us by Paul: “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (Phil 1: 23-24). The way of the Christian is that of the will of God as it is made manifest over time.

P. Antonio Izqeuirdo, L.C., Copyright © Dicastery for the Clergy

Doctrinal Messages

The way of man

As humans, we are accustomed to thinking of our inter-personal relations in terms of a contract and of commutative justice. Certainly, this occurs in employment relations, where the worker by contract exchanges his labor for a wage. However, people apply these categories to their relationship with God – relations based on a contract, on merit, on justice! In the face of this situation, in today’s liturgy, God tells the person who thinks he is right, “You are wrong. My relations with individuals is not those of an employer, nor are your relations with me those of an employee.” God is not unjust. He goes beyond justice – “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways” (Is 55: 9). Here the freedom of love and goodness prevail. The “just” man is disconcerted by this divine way of acting and feels the grip of envy. This means that he has not undertaken the way of God, the way of freedom and goodness of the Father. He will have to change his mentality, to make the transition from being “just” to being justified.

P. Antonio Izqeuirdo, L.C., Copyright © Dicastery for the Clergy

The way of God

“Just” is certainly one of adjectives attributed to God, but this is not the way chosen by God in his relations people in history. Furthermore, Revelation speaks of the “justice of God,” not in commutative, but rather in salvific terms: God is just insofar as he justifies us, saves us from our sins and redeems us through his Son. His justice alters our justice, because it is impregnated with love and goodness. How far God’s justice is from mere contractual justice! This is why, the final phrase of the text of the Gospel is disquieting for some and comforting for others. “Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.” Those that seek commutative justice in their relationship with God will be last in the Kingdom of God, while those that let salvific justice act in their life will be first. Such are the ways of God, so distant and different from our own! The way of the Christian. Paul is the symbol and figure of one who has been conquered by Christ, the figure of a genuine Christian. Like Jesus Christ, Paul has made the will of God the way of his existence. This is why he does not have “personal ways,” but rather lets God manifest his will to him in the events of each day. While his wish would be to die and be with Christ, his mission is such that he feels called to continue living to preach the Gospel. He does not choose. He lets God show him the way, whatever it may be, and he is ready to follow that way with promptness and joy. A Christian does not have “his own way.” It is God who opens up the way to him, day after day.

P. Antonio Izqeuirdo, L.C., Copyright © Dicastery for the Clergy

Pastoral Suggestions

Our concept of God

In order to “adjust” our relationship with God, we must first “adjust” our knowledge, because it is evident that a person relates to others or to God according to their idea of them. There are many names and attributes associated with God, but there are always some to which we give greater emphasis. In concrete terms, which attribute of God has the greatest significance for me? In my preaching and pastoral ministry, which of God’s names do I emphasize the most? When I meditate or pray, what is the image of God that is clearest in my mind? When faced with my sins and those of my brothers and sisters, which image of God comes to mind most spontaneously? What can I do to inculcate in all the parishioners or members of my community a more evangelical image of God?

P. Antonio Izqeuirdo, L.C., Copyright © Dicastery for the Clergy

Our relationship with God

Being a Christian means, in a very special way, to live our relationship with God in the same way as Christ. Jesus Christ addresses God with a single name, “Abba.” For Jesus Christ, God is almighty, just, holy …, but when he speaks to him, he does not choose any of these names. God is his Father and he is like small child, a favorite son. Paul, in both in his letter to the Romans (8: 15) and to the Galatians (4: 6), insists that this is how we should treat God as Christians. This way of behaving towards God is not spontaneous, nor is it the result of a speculation on the most adequate relationship between man and God. First and foremost, it is Revelation by the Son, Jesus Christ, and then vital appropriation by the Spirit, the teacher within who teaches us to say “Abba, Father.”

P. Antonio Izqeuirdo, L.C., Copyright © Dicastery for the Clergy



P. Antonio Izqeuirdo, L.C., Copyright © Dicastery for the Clergy

SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website © Libreria Editrice Vaticana