Reflection on Today’s Daily Readings by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM

Today’s Readings

Scripture: Aug. 18 Lectionary 421. Ezekiel 34:1-11. Psalm 23:1-3. 3-4.5.6.
Matthew 20:1-6:

Hammurabi, the great Babylonian King and Code maker which foreshadows the
commandments and covenant in many respects, was also called Shepherd.  This
title or metaphor is often used in the Hebrew Scriptures to speak about the
leaders whether they be good or bad.  It is Ezekiel who explains this best
in the present chapter we are listening to at the Eucharist, namely,
chapter 34.  For Israel, of course, God is really the only true Shepherd,
the Good Shepherd.  This is seen especially in the Psalm chosen for our
Responsorial, Psalm 23 which is one of the favorites in the psalter.  Here
it is speaking of God as shepherd and we easily are able to interpret its
meaning for our person lives. God does care and watches over us as a
shepherd does his sheep and even though we go through some dark valleys in
life, God is there with his guiding staff and his loving concern for each
of us.  Another Psalm that is said by many each day is Psalm 95 and this
has a verse that brings out the meaning of God as Shepherd, God as our
leader: ...for He is our God and we are the people he tends, the flock in
His care." (Psalm 95:7).

Another great image in the Bible both in the New Testament and the Hebrew
Scriptures is that of a vineyard and how it is tended and looked after by
the master of the vineyard.  Matthew gives us today's parable--another
parable of the kingdom-- and it may strike us as not a good parable for
wage earners and hard workers or union people.  Jesus is speaking in
striking images and stories about the kingdom and we need to give the
parable some time to fathom its meaning which is another realm of life,
namel, the spiritual life and our journeying toward the kingdom of God that
happens also to be within our grasp for it is within us as we learn from
other parables and words of Jesus.  The owner of the vineyard has the
entire plan in his mind and also sees the bigger picture. His going out and
looking for workers at the different hours of the day is meant on a
metaphorical level of thought and meditation.  The parable can be
interpreted in three ways and maybe one of them may strike us as the one
for us.  First, it shows us that God's love is universal and is extended to
those of the past, present, and future.  It calls us to do something in the
vineyard whether we be sinners, marginal people, or saints.  Secondly, God
gives each of us the ability to choose when we think the time is right for
us to enter into some serious spiritual growth.  Verses 10-12 may help us
with this interpretation. And thirdly, Jesus is always teaching in a way
that reverses the temporal order and even the social order of things.
Here verse 16 may be key for us. Should we complain and cry out that the
owner is unfair? Each one chose to work for what he offered. He may seem to
us to be unfair in giving the stragglers or the late comers the same
reward.  Again, are we jealous that some people are converted on their
death-bed? Or isn't it more challenging to follow the owner in his call to
work throughout our long lived days?  Should we begrudge God's generosity?