Diocese News

GOD'S WORD IN DAILY LIFE

18 August/Wednesday/20th Week in Ordinary Time, 

Judg 9,6-15/Psa 21,2-3.4-5.6-7/Matt 20,1-16

By Most Rev. Emmanuel Kpfi Fianu, SVD

First Reading:Judges 9:6-15

The tale of the trees and their king

 

All the leading men of Shechem and all Beth-millo gathered, and proclaimed Abimelech king by the terebinth of the pillar at Shechem.

News of this was brought to Jotham. He came and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted aloud for them to hear:

‘Hear me, leaders of Shechem,

that God may also hear you!

‘One day the trees went out

to anoint a king to rule over them.

They said to the olive tree, “Be our king!”

‘The olive tree answered them,

“Must I forego my oil

which gives honour to gods and men,

to stand swaying above the trees?”

‘Then the trees said to the fig tree,

“Come now, you be our king!”

‘The fig tree answered them,

“Must I forego my sweetness,

forego my excellent fruit,

to stand swaying above the trees?”

‘Then the trees said to the vine,

“Come now, you be our king!”

‘The vine answered them,

“Must I forego my wine

which cheers the heart of gods and men,

to stand swaying above the trees?”

‘Then all the trees said to the thorn bush,

“Come now, you be our king!”

‘And the thorn bush answered the trees,

“If in all good faith you anoint me king to reign over you,

then come and shelter in my shade.

If not, fire will come from the thorn bush

and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”’

 

Responsorial Psalm:  Psalm 20(21):2-7

 

O Lord, your strength gives joy to the king.

 

O Lord, your strength gives joy to the king;

    how your saving help makes him glad!

You have granted him his heart’s desire;

    you have not refused the prayer of his lips.

You came to meet him with the blessings of success,

    you have set on his head a crown of pure gold.

He asked you for life and this you have given,

    days that will last from age to age.

 

Your saving help has given him glory.

    You have laid upon him majesty and splendour,

you have granted your blessings to him forever.

    You have made him rejoice with the joy of your presence.

 

Gospel Acclamation:  Psa 118:135

 

Alleluia, alleluia!

Let your face shine on your servant,

and teach me your decrees.

Alleluia!

 

Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16

Why be envious because I am generous?

 

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.” In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’

 

Reflection

Jotham, the one who narrated the allegorical story in the First Reading, was a brother of Abimelech whom the elders of Shechem made king. Jotham is the only surviving half-brother of Abimelech who murdered all the brothers in order to become king over Israel. Jotham feared the reaction of his brother Abimelech and the men of Shechem so he moved to a safe distance before speaking to them. The top of Mount Gerizim did not only provide him with the safe distance he needed, it also offered him an acoustic advantage so he was audible to all.

Jotham presented his story in the form of an allegory in order not to mention the name of his brother, Abimelech. In the allegory, Abimelech is represented by the thornbush. This plant is not of much value and does not have much to offer the other components of the forest. It gladly accepted the invitation to reign over the forest. The thornbush cannot offer any shelter and it is only good for fire so it easily destroys what is around it. The fact of the story is that the other brothers did not refuse to be king over Israel but they were murdered by Abimelech in his ambition to take over the reign of Israel. The bottom line of the allegory is that Jotham did not consider Abimelech the appropriate person to rule over Israel. He also warned the people about Abimelech who would be a tyrant over all of them.

This story shows that the death of Gideon brought his good reign to an end and his sons did not follow in his footsteps. Israel once again went the way of the bad kings and lost the favour of God. Usually, when there is rivalry among the heirs to the throne, it is not often the most appropriate person who takes over the reign. It is often the most shrewd one among them who is able to weave his way around and if possible eliminate the others in order to pave his way to power. The story helps us reflect on how at times bad or incapable people find their way to the realms of power. A similar rivalry shows its face in the Gospel Reading as those who started work early felt cheated by those who were engaged at a late hour. Like Jotham, we are called to raise our voice and warn people about the dangers posed by rivalry. Apart from raising our voice, we should also pray to the Lord to restore his reign through his chosen ones so that his will may be done here on earth.