Catholic Contemplative Affiliation

Sunday Readings


The Twenty-fifth  Sunday in Ordinary Time; Cycle A 

September 24, 2023

Readings: Isaiah 55.6-9;  Philippians 1.20-24,27;  Matthew 20. 1-16


What Is the Objective of Our Work

All of us have had to work “for money” at some time in our life.  Some may have had summer jobs to pay for school.  They would never have wanted to spend their life doing a job they took for expediency.  They did it for the money.  Some may have had many years in jobs that were indeed for the money.  They had responsibility for family and therefore had to put up with a lot of boredom and tough situations for the sake of the paycheck for the family.  Some may have spent many years working for “good money” and all it could buy, but at the same time were losing their souls within this culture of gain and advancement.  Some may have worked for the joy and love of the profession chosen.  That situation is indeed a blessing.  But whatever the circumstances of work, most people have had the experience of doing at least, some things out of love and for the joy of the task at least at some time. 

Love at the Center: The Parable of the Gospel Reading

One fruit of contemplative prayer is singleness and purity of heart at the center of our living.  It is not for wages that we live a life of prayer; the life itself of conscious union with God brings the joy of fulfillment.  Contemplative living is sharing in the divine life of love within the Trinity.  Every action and every situation call forth this life of contemplative love.

The parable in the Gospel Reading demonstrates that the mystery of living within the Kingdom of Christ is its own reward.  No matter how long we labor, the reward is the same coin.  The coin of the realm is the divine life within the Kingdom with a deep, simple consciousness of union with God.  The coin of the realm is love—love is its own reason to be.  The ability to work within the Kingdom, the ability to live within the Kingdom, the ability to be faithful within the Kingdom, are all gifts, God’s superabundant grace freely given, freely received.  We would otherwise have been all the day idle, waiting for work.

Friend, …. take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give this last as I give to you (Gospel Reading).

The Second Reading: The Totality of Christ

No other reading could so exemplify this parable teaching than the one selected for the Second Reading. 

Christ will be exalted through me, whether I live or die, for to me, life is Christ.

  Paul has experienced this fullness of the Spirit.  Love coming from the Trinity by the gift of the Holy Spirit is the motivation, the “coin” of his life.  Christ is in his toil; Christ is in his death; either way, it is to live in Christ.  Life now or life hereafter are both basically the same.  That is the contemplative life: life now and life hereafter in Christ’s glory are essentially the same.  It is all Christ.

I can only speak for myself.  I know that many times I work for the reward of some satisfaction, here and now.  I work for the experience of the fruit of my effort.  It’s only natural; our culture promotes this self-interest.  It is for this reason that Paul, after writing of these deep contemplative matters of union with Christ, brings us back to the realty of our self interests:

 Conduct yourselves, then, in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ.

  Our behavior makes visible the content of our hearts; behavior bespeaks our motivation.  Are we struggling for the wages of a self-image?  That false self-image is a severe task master.

The Contemplative Life: Love and Discipline in the First Reading

Our contemplative prayer practice is love, but it is also discipline.  We have not yet arrived at this state of love wherein Christ is all in all.  Contemplative prayer is life in Christ, but it is also a practice and discipline that our divided selves desperately need.  The First Reading then makes sense by recalling for us the need for discipline and purgation:

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while his is near.  Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked man his thoughts; let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God who is generous in forgiving (First Reading).

It’s all about putting on the mind of Christ.  So much of our contemplative practice is sitting into, persevering in, the Presence of Christ, in spite of the thoughts and commentaries that are so obviously selfish and, in fact, silly and childish in self-pity.  We enter into the simple love-prayer of unknowing and forgetting so as to leave the process of our thought-making: 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts (First Reading).

The Contemplative Life: A Labor of Love

We cannot escape the labor involved in the work of grace.  It is the transformation of our way of thinking.  The change is in our thinking must move us more to love and grace and away from the mentality of reward and rights.  We do not need a labor contract and a labor relations board within the Kingdom.  This matter of life with God has nothing to do with our rights or with our demands for a labor contract.  We must not translate the struggle for justice and rights within human society into our relationship with God and our role within the Church.  There, it is a matter of love and service for the joy of serving.

In the Midst of the Labor: the Sabbath Rest

The Liturgy is the work of grace but at the same time it is Sabbath time for celebrating the joy of the freedom of the children of God.  It is in the Eucharist that we have the love exchange outside the realm of wages.  Freely Christ is given to us; freely in grace we surrender to God and in God to one another.  Our daily practice of prayer is part of this free exchange, although, many times, it requires discipline.  Ultimately, though, it is all grace, free gift.  And whatever is of labor is itself the free gift of grace.

--William Fredrickson, (OblSB; D.Min.)