After returning from the dedication of the altar at the cathedral in Albano, Italy, Sunday morning, Pope Benedict spoke about Sunday’s Gospel, the parable of the workers in the vineyard. The Holy Father encouraged his audience with the examples of Sts. Matthew and Paul, who are respectively the narrator of Sunday’s Gospel and the focus of this jubilee year.
Speaking to thousands of the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square, the Pope recalled the day of his election and his spontaneous presentation to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square as a humble worker in God’s vineyard.
In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus recounts the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, in which workers are called by the vineyard owner to work in his vineyard at different hours of the day but are all given the same pay.
According to the Holy Father, the equal reward represents “eternal life, a gift that God reserves for all.” Further, the parable is about being called, “being able to work in God’s vineyard, putting oneself at his service, collaborating with his work.” Being called by God is itself a form of compensation. But those who work only for payment, Pope Benedict said, “will never realize the value of this inestimable treasure."
Pope Benedict reflected upon the narrator of the parable, St. Matthew, apostle and evangelist, whose Feast the Church celebrates today. Before Jesus called Matthew, “he was a tax collector, and for this reason he was considered a public sinner, excluded from God’s vineyard. But everything changed when Jesus, passing nearby his post, saw him and told him: 'Follow me'. Matthew got up and followed him. He immediately changed from being a tax collector to being a disciple of Christ. Instead of being 'last', he found himself 'first', thanks to the logic of God, which - fortunately for us! - is different from that of the world.”
The Holy Father then spoke of St. Paul, who “also experienced the joy of hearing himself called by the Lord to work in his vineyard. And what work he did! But, as he himself confesses, it was the grace of God working in him, the grace that transformed him from being a persecutor of the Church to being an apostle of the Gentiles.” Paul understood well that working for the Lord is already a reward on this earth.
The Pope concluded by citing the example of the Virgin Mary, whom he venerated a week ago in Lourdes, France: “From her has sprouted the blessed fruit of Divine Love: Jesus, Our Savior.” He stated that in the Virgin Mary, the faithful would find help “to respond always and with love to the cry of the Lord.”
Following the Angelus, Pope Benedict assured victims of hurricanes Faye, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike in Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Texas of his special prayers for them. He expressed his hope that aid quickly reaches the most heavily damaged areas.
The Holy Father also addressed world leaders ahead of the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, which is to begin September 25 in New York City. The meeting will assess the progress made on the objectives established in the Millennium Declaration, September 8, 2000.
Pope Benedict asked them to work against “extreme poverty, hunger, ignorance, and the scourge of diseases, which especially strike the most vulnerable.” Noting that the task requires special sacrifices at a time of worldwide economic difficulties, he concluded, such aid “will not fail to produce important benefits both for the development of nations in need of foreign aid and for the peace and well-being of the entire planet."