21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus’ phrase in Luke’s Gospel today—“some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last”—also appears in similar form in Matthew (20:16) and Mark (10:31). All are concluding statements of a teaching of Jesus, but each appears in a different context.

In Matthew, the phrase concludes the parable of the vineyard workers, upsetting listeners’ expectations of work and reward. In Mark, wealth is presented as an obstacle to salvation, again reversing expectations. In Luke, when asked whether only a few may be saved, Jesus shifts the focus to who is best able to receive God’s invitation. Following his healing of a woman on the Sabbath (13:11¬–17), Jesus emphasizes compassion over a narrow interpretation of Jewish law. To his listeners’ surprise, Jesus announces that those who practice compassion, rather than those in religious leadership, are the first to understand and accept God’s salvation.

Today’s Readings: Is 66:18–21; Ps 117:1, 2; Heb 12:5–7, 11–13; Lk 13:22–30

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