25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 24, 2017
Parish, Pylesville 8:00 AM
Parish, Baltimore 11:00 AM
One thing that probably all of us dislike is a lack of fairness.
We want everyone to be treated fairly. We want fair pay, fair games, fair trials, and on it goes.
So, we may agree with the guys in the gospel story who have worked all day long. They are upset when the landowner pays those who have worked just one hour or a few hours a full day’s pay.
In truth, the landowner is being fair because he pays the full-day workers exactly what they agreed upon and that was the going rate-of-pay. He simply chooses to be generous with those who have worked fewer hours.
Now, we have to say that Jesus is not giving a lesson here on good management or compensation practices – that’s not the point! Instead, he is teaching us lessons first about God and then about ourselves.
Lesson 1: About God
We can summarize Jesus’ lesson about God in the word: “generous.”
To those who have worked all day and are complaining about what he has paid the others, the landowner says: “Are you envious because I am generous?” Jesus is presenting the landowner as an image of God.
The idea is that God is absolutely generous in his love for us. In another passage of Scripture, Saint John says this so beautifully: “Love consists in this: not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us.”
So, God first loves us, each of us, personally. God takes the initiative in loving.
God’s love is a purely and simply a gift. We don’t merit it or earn it.
To us, this is counter-cultural. Our experience is that we have to merit or earn practically everything.
But this isn’t true when it comes to the love of God. One of our Catholic writers puts it this way.
“We don’t change to earn God’s love; instead, we change because of God’s love.” The idea is that it is God’s love within us that moves us to grow and change.
And, as if that isn’t enough, God is also so generous that he treats us all in the same way – like those in today’s parable. So maybe we come to God or come back to God later in life.
But amazingly, God treats us as the landowner treats the late workers. In some way, God loves us all equally.
It may be difficult to wrap our heads around this but we have to remember that God is “generous” – that’s the key word, “generous.” God gives his love as a gift and we don’t earn it or merit it.
Lesson 2: About Us
The second lesson really flows from the first.
It is also summed up in one word and that word is “envious.” The landowner says to the all-day workers: “Are you envious because I am generous?”
I and probably each of you, we human beings can be envious. Envy is the sin of being upset at someone else’s good fortune.
Maybe a fellow employee gets a promotion; maybe a family member gets named in an inheritance; maybe someone gets publicly recognized for doing some charitable work – these are the kinds of things that can make us feel envious – resentful, begrudging, even hateful.
Notice in the gospel what leads to the envy. The day-long workers compare themselves with the part-day workers and their pay.
It’s the comparing that leads to the envy. So Jesus wants us to stop comparing ourselves to others in this way.
Instead, he wants us to focus on God’s generous love for us. He wants us to be aware of the gifts God has given us – like our school, our job, our family, our friends, our home and on it goes.
Instead of comparing ourselves to others who seem to have something we don’t have and becoming envious, Jesus wants us to look at ourselves and God’s generous love for us and be thankful.
And that’s the key point. Being thankful is the opposite of being envious.
So, two words: “generous” and “envious.”
God is amazingly generous to each one of us. If we remember this and are thankful, we will not become envious.