Sunday Scriptures

Embracing the Joy and Demands of God’s Kingdom

by Father Caleb Buchanan

“LAUDATE, laudate Dominum! Omnes gentes, laudate Dominum! Exultate, iubilate per annos domini, omnes gentes!”

“We praise you, we praise your Holy Name, God of justice, eternally the same. May our living be thanksgiving, rejoicing in your name now and always!”*

This glorious and marvelous refrain resounds in cathedrals all over the world in the entrance procession to the celebration of the liturgy. This praise celebrates the glory and the saving work of the God of Justice who comes in Jesus Christ to build the Kingdom of God. The Justice of the Kingdom demands that by the saving grace of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ, all are called to share in the very Life of God whether they have labored for Christ throughout a lifetime or as new believers. This heavenly Justice puts us on equal footing in the Kingdom of God.

This Justice surpasses all other forms of justice and fairness this world can offer. It overrides all the false divisions forged by evil and injustice in the human experience. God’s Kingdom Justice, working through Christ in us, can reverse the injustices against the universal dignity of the human person and the universal call to holiness.

As Christians baptized in the Lord, we are consecrated, that is set aside as God’s sacred agents, to perform the works of God’s Justice in the vineyard of His Kingdom whether convenient or inconvenient. This Justice must be embraced in a spirit of a joy borne from radical selflessness and renunciation of our need for the fairness and equal treatment of this broken world.

In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus presents a parable that demonstrates the great tension around God’s brand of Justice in the Kingdom of God. This tension is borne from the radical departure of the Kingdom from people’s traditional worldly expectations. In the Kingdom of God, the self-oriented agendas of this world will be overturned in favor of the Heavenly Father’s absolutely gracious and utterly selfless will and desire to share His very life with us all. All of us, who claim to love the Lord and to follow Christ, must embrace this new Justice of the Kingdom that demands us to exchange our worldly concerns and comforts for Eucharistic strength: the grace to overcome all our disappointments in the course of serving in the Lord’s Vineyard.

The Heavenly Father is the owner of the vineyard which is His Kingdom proclaimed and established by Jesus Christ. The workers of the vineyard are those called to life in Christ to work for and with Him to yield and to serve the superabundant harvest of souls ripe for evangelization, conversion, sanctification, discipleship and ministry. God’s Supreme Justice has already fully paid for us worthless sinners to be called His children with full rights and privileges to work in His Kingdom.

Justice Is Perfectly Served
This Kingdom Justice bestows upon us the honor of serving our brothers and sisters with an unconditional love. Whether we have worked for the cause of Christ in our families, our communities and our Church for a short or long time, receiving or not receiving whatever we expect for our service, God has already given us all access to the saving grace of the redemptive acts of Jesus Christ. Indeed, as we would declare at the end of a trial with a highly respectable verdict, in Christ and in His service: Justice is served and perfectly served.

St. Paul, as he addresses the Philippians in the second reading, reminds us that we must always seek God’s ways so that we remain genuinely in His service and the service of His People. Paul, from his jail cell, understanding that he has already been more than compensated for his work by the grace of Christ, renounces his desire to depart and be with Christ immediately. Instead, he recognizes and accepts the Lord’s desire to serve the Philippians for as much time as God ordains. He tells his readers and all of us “Only, act as citizens in a worthy manner for the Good News of Christ.”

Like Paul, the Prophet Isaiah was moved to teach his hearers to see and to seek beyond our own ways so that we can know God’s ways. Isaiah, in the first reading, helped his people to understand that they had to see beyond their own mentalities about who God is, and how and whom He serves. God was now finally understood to be the Only God in a world that used to claim many gods. God was no longer the God of the Jewish people alone, but now the God of All Peoples. He is the God who now restores life and peace after exile, forgives sinners and removes all barricades that we try to place against others in His Kingdom. He is the Most High God of Justice who renews the world as He renews our minds.

Because of this, we join the Psalmist in Psalm 145 and all the Saints of Glory at the Eucharist praying in a fanfare of praises to the Lord of the Harvest: “I will exalt you, My God, the King! I will praise your name forever and ever.” Amen!

*Latin and English refrain taken from Christopher Walker’s Laudate, Laudate Domiunum, OCP, 1997[hr]Readings for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 55:6-9
Psalm 145: 2-3, 8-9, 17-18
Philippians 1: 20c-24, 27a
Matthew 20:1-16a[hr] Father Caleb Buchanan is the parochial vicar of St. Martin de Porres, Bedford-Stuyvesant; coordinator of the Vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns, the diocesan West Indian and African-American Apostolates; and the chaplain of Medgar Evers College.