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Septuagesima Sunday

The work of the vineyard

From book "Meditations for Lent from the texts of Saint Thomas Aquinas"... Going out about the third hour, he saw others sta...

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Meditations for Lent

St. Thomas Aquinas

Going out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the marketplace idle. And he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard and I will give you what shall be just.
Mt. 20, 3

In these words we may notice four things:

1. The goodness of the Lord, going out, that is, for his people's salvation. For that Christ should go out to lead men into the vineyard of justice was indeed an act of infinite goodness.

Our Lord is five times said to have gone out. He went out in the beginning of the world, as a sower, to sow his creatures, The sower sent out to sow his seed. Then in his nativity to enlighten the world, Until her just one come forth as brightness (Is. 62, 1). In his Passion to save his own from the power of the devil and from all evil, My just one is near at hand, my saviour is gone forth (Is. 51, 5). He goes out like the father of a family, caring for his children and his goods. The kingdom of heaven is like to an householder who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard (Mt. 20, 1). Finally he goes out to judgment, to make most strict inquiry after the wicked, like some overseer, to beat down rebels, like some mighty fighter, and, like a judge, to punish as they merit, criminals and malefactors.

2. The foolishness of men. For nothing is more foolish than that in this present life, where men ought so to work that they may live eternally, men should live in idleness. He found them in the market place idle. That marketplace is this our present life. For it is in the marketplace that men quarrel and buy and sell and so the marketplace stands for our life of every day, full of affairs, of buying and selling and in which also the prospects of grace and heavenly glory are sold in exchange for good works.

These labourers were called idle because they had already let slip a part of their life. And not evil-doers alone are called idle but also those who do not do good. And as the idle never attain their end, so will it be with these. The end of man is life eternal. He therefore who works in the proper way will possess that life if he is not an idler.

It is great folly to live in idleness in this life; because from idleness, as from an evil teacher, we learn evil knowledge; because through idleness we come to lose the good that lasts for ever; because through the short idleness of this life we incur a labour that is eternal.

3. The necessity of working in the vineyard of the Lord. Go you also into my vineyard.

The vineyard into which the men are sent to work is the life of goodness, in which there are as many trees as there are virtues. We are to work in this vineyard in five ways: Planting in it good works and virtues; rooting up and destroying the thorns, that is, our vices; cutting down the superfluous branches, Every branch in me, that beareth fruit, he will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit (Jo. 15, 2); keeping off the little foxes, that is, the devils; and guarding it from the thieves, that is, keeping ourselves indifferent to the praise and the blame of mankind.

4. The usefulness of labour. The wage of those who labour in the vineyard is a penny that out values thousands of silver crowns. And this is what we are told in Holy Scripture, The peaceable had a vineyard, every man bringeth for the fruit thereof a thousand pieces of silver (Cc. 8, 11). The thousand crowns are the thousand joys of eternity, and these are signified by the penny.

(Sermon for Septuagesima Sunday)

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Good WorksProcastination
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