LECTIO DIVINA: XXV Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A


Translated by Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR

Mt. 20:1-16

A. Invoking the Holy Spirit.

We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.

Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God. (s. 128,4) Amen.

B. Lectio.

With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the market place,  and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’  So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to the foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner,  saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’  He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you, Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

C. Meditatio.

Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Matthew.

“On the other hand, for persons of short comprehension, it may look like favoritism of persons that the Master of the vineyard would give to laborers who worked only for one hour the same wage as to those who supported the burden of one whole day and the heat, making them equal in the reward as those who bore much of the work. But what does he answer to those who murmured against the Master of the house on this supposed favoritism of persons? Friend, he says, I do you no injustice. Did you not agree with me for one denarius? Take what is yours and go. I want to give to this last one the same as I give to you. Am I not permitted to do as I wish with what is mine? Or are you envious because I am generous? That is, all justice consists in this: I want this. He says: I have paid you, to him I have given; but to give to him, I did not take anything from you, neither did I reduce nor deny what I owe you. Am I not permitted to do what I want? Or are you envious because I am generous?

Thus it is that in this case there is no favoritism of persons because to one he is gratuitously generous, in such a way that to the other he did not fail to pay what is due. In this parable of the laborers, those who worked for one hour received one denarius, equally like those who worked for twelve hours. According to human thinking, though vain, they ought to receive twelve in proportion to their hours of work, but the one and the other were made equal in the benefit, without the one being freed nor the other being condemned, because those who worked more, having been called in such a way that they responded to the call, and having been nourished in such a way that they did not fail along the way, they received it all from the Landlord. But when it is said: Therefore, he sympathizes with whom he wants, and he is strict to one he likes; one goblet he takes for honorable occasion, and another for common use. The benefit is granted gratuitously without merit, in so far as it proceeds from the same mass as that to whom nothing is given, but the evil is given as merited and deserved, because within the mass of damnation the evil is not unjustly paid with evil, and to him who is paid it is evil, because it is a punishment; but for him who pays, it is a benefit because his work is just” (c. ep. Pel. 2, 13).  (N.B. I translate as I find the Spanish. The language of St. Augustine is sometimes difficult for me. Remember, he was an orator, more on rhetoric than strict logic.)

On the denarius, St. Augustine comments: “Thus the number ten rightly signifies the doctrine that suggests God as Creator and the creature as created. And when a body perfect and indestructible submits to a soul also perfect and indestructible, and in its turn submits herself to Christ and Christ to God, not as dissimilar or of another nature, but as the Son to the Father, the number ten correctly means everything we hope for after the resurrection that last for all eternity. And perhaps that is why those contracted for the vineyard receive a denarius as salary” (div. qu. 57, 1).

D. Oratio.

With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.

a. “You too go to my vineyard and I will pay you what is just” (Mt. 20:4).

  • In what moment of your life did you receive the call of the Lord?
  • What payment do you expect for your service to God?

b. “Don’t I have the freedom to do what I want in my affairs? Or are you jealous because I am generous?”  (Mt. 20:15)

  • How do you live the goodness of God in your life?
  • What does the goodness of God mean in your life?

c. Pray with this phrase: “Thank you, Lord, for having called me to work in your vineyard.”

E. Contemplatio.

I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.

a. Contemplate the moment in which God called you to be a laborer in his vineyard. Contemplate what you have accomplished in the vineyard of the Lord. Contemplate and be thankful because your work is a gift of grace. Contemplate how God, at the end of the day and of your labor gives you the denarius of eternal life. Seeing the salary of glory no labor is big. Contemplate, be thankful and praise.

b. Contemplate how you are a laborer in the vineyard of the Lord, and how God is calling many other persons to work. Contemplate that the work is difficult, but you feel joy thinking of the salary that awaits you. Contemplate how someone who has almost not labored also receives eternal life, and you also receive it. Experience peace and joy and thank God for his call and election.

F. Communicatio.

Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about being called to work in the vineyard of the Lord and receiving the recompense of life eternal. The following points can help you to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text.

  • What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
  • How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
  • What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
  • What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?

Final Prayer of St. Augustine.

Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give your our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your goodwill, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you increase our faith, govern our mind and give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).

“You do not yet receive the recompense, perhaps because you cannot as yet receive it. He can give it already, but you cannot receive it. Exercise yourself in the works, work in the vineyard. Once the day is over, request for the salary; he who brought you to the vineyard is faithful” (en. Ps. 36:1, 8).

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Fray Dunstan Huberto Decena, OAR

Fray Hubert Dunstan Decena, OAR

Priest/Religious/Bible Professor of the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno.