25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mt 20:1-16a)

Today’s Gospel tugs at our sense of “fair play.” We are all familiar with the concept of fairness. From an early age, we learn what “fairness” is all about. Soon after the words “No!” and “Mine!” we all learn that marvelous phrase, “It’s not fair!” As parents, we have all heard it from our children, I heard it frequently from my own daughters even though they knew what I would say to them in response, “Life’s not fair, so deal with it.”

Laborers in the vineyard

Laborers in the vineyard

Our sense of fairness is most keen when we believe that we are the victims of an injustice. Or when we feel someone is treated more favorably. How many of us have felt someone treated us unfairly or favored another over us? All of us have endured some hurt when our dreams are dashed or ambitions denied. Preferred treatment can lay the foundation for many bitter memories.But Jesus isn’t speaking about fairness; rather he is telling us that the kingdom of heaven is one of justice. And, there is a very real difference between the two. Fairness is based upon self-interest. When we insist upon our rights without regard to the needs of others, we are focusing on ourselves to the exclusion of others. How can God reward us when we insist upon making ourselves “Number One?” Justice, however, is based upon the needs of others. When we focus upon the needs of others, even if they encroach upon our rights, we sacrifice ourselves for the Kingdom, just as Jesus did. The men who had worked all day received a normal day’s wages.  But they believed that the men who had worked less than they should receive less, particularly those who had worked only one hour.  Yet they received the same amount.  Those who had worked the longest complained because they felt that they had been treated unfairly. We have a tendency, as the parable aptly illustrates, to covet and to be resentful of what others receive from God. The owner of the vineyard asks those who have worked the longest and (presumably) the hardest for him, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” The point is that God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness are God’s to give away as God sees fit. God tells us that “… my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” God is more than just to us; God is generous.  God is generous in opening the doors of his kingdom to all who will enter, both those who have labored a life-time for him and those who come at the last hour. God’s pay scale is very small; he pays everyone exactly the same wage. You can’t climb the corporate ladder in the Kingdom of God because there is no ladder! Those who enter His kingdom share equally in his love; we are all paid the same wage. This is a “thought of God” that is far above our thoughts.  If God were strictly just to us we would all be in a bad way for who can truly say that they have earned God’s gifts. Our hope lies in the fact that God is generous and merciful. We could say that in God’s kingdom, life isn’t fair. If it were, we would all be in deep trouble. God sent His only Son as His gift to us to save us and to earn for us entry into His Kingdom. We don’t deserve His gift; we certainly can’t earn it. God opens the gates to all of us, no matter our station in life, because he is generous and merciful. But Jesus took what we deserved, and gave us what we don’t. He was punished, crucified, and died for our sins and weaknesses and in return we received God’s love, mercy and generosity. Jesus satisfied God’s sense of fairness, and through his suffering and death gave us eternal life, forgiveness, and peace.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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