September 20th, 2020: Homily – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

A story was told, an engineer was working in a construction firm that builds houses. He told himself: “I have been working hard for this company and what do I get? “I’m about to retire all my life, I am only making beautiful mansions for the rich people. ”

One day the owner of the construction firm said to him: “I want you to construct a large and lovely house, don’t mind about the budget. I just want it done well. ” But since the engineer was filled with resentment to his work, he wanted to embarrass the owner. “Anyway, ” he reasoned, “I would be retiring soon. ” So he built the house with substandard materials:rusty steels and roofs, old wood and fixtures. The façade was so impressive but he knew it would not last because of the poor quality of work and materials.

The time came for him to retire. He was summoned by the owner who said: “As my gratitude to you for your services in the company, I’m giving you the house that I instructed you to build. It was meant as a surprise for you. ” He wanted to complain but it’s late.

Today’s readings are all about the human sense of justice contrasted with the extravagant grace of a merciful and compassionate God. God rewards us, not in the measure of what we do, but according to our need and His good will. Let us keep in our mind that what is important is not the amount of service that we render but the love in which the service is carried out. In God’s eyes, all services, big or small are important and accounted for.

Hearing this parable for the first time it was quite a bit puzzled, because at first what the landowner had done is unfair. The workers who were hired in the morning complained and protested that they were paid the same wage as those hired in the afternoon. They complained “a gross injustice and it is unfair!”. The landowner seemed not showing the meaning of justice – give what is due. But is there an injustice happened? Are those who labor longer deserving higher pay?

But legally, there is none because the agreement was covered by a personal contract. There was mutual agreement between the workers and the employer on the wage. He agreed with the laborers day’swage and he fulfilled it.

Now, let us start with the workmen who were hired first. See how their faces light up when the landowner finds them at dawn and offers the usual wages for a day’s work in his vineyard. Their children will not sleep at night with an empty stomach. But let us look at the laborers who were hired late in the afternoon. They were not lazy people, only less lucky. They just stayed in the market because nobody hired them. But this landowner saw them and paid with a day’s wage. For us maybe, for an hour’s work is equivalent to an hour’s pay.

The gospel passage is not about justice or social injustice, rather, it is about God’s generosity. It is because if we talk about justice and demand for it later of what we do here on earth, all of us will end up outside God’s kingdom. It is because the bad things we have done cannot compensate for the good things we do.

Sometimes in our personal experience, we would most likely respond the same as the day-long workers complained. We react to unfairness and we have a tendency to be resentful. But we are challenged to see ourselves in the parable. We are inclined, as the parable illustrates, to covet and to be resentful of what others receive from God. The owner of the vineyard asks those who have worked longest and 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 parable of the laborers in the vineyard is about our frustration with the grace of God as it applies not to us, but to others. The point is that God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness are God’s to give away as God sees fit. Do we covet what God chooses to give to others—forgiveness, life, and salvation for believers? We need not literallybelaborers in a vineyard, for we are allco-workers in the kingdom(1 Cor. 3:9). Jesuspresents this parable to transform our thinking and acting, “for my thoughts are not your thoughts… my ways are higher than your ways”. Reward in the kingdom is not based upon time, title, or service but on the grace of God.

On the other hand, this is just a reminder of our sometimes ingratitude to God. Actually its main focus is not on the laborers which represent ourselves but on the landowner who is God. That our God is just to those he hired first, he gave to them what is due for them. But He is generous beyond all expectations to those who came late. That His Kingdom is open, not only to those who seem most undeserving.

So we should be grateful to Him as sinful children of God. We should show our gratitude by doing the things that are God’s. But are we really grateful to Him?

Dear brothers and sisters, let’s rethink our ideas about fairness. Let’s change our ways of thinking until we’re no longer upset with God’s generosity and mercy. We have to remember that God’s ways are not our waysand God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.

Our challenge is to let God be God.
God is good, all the time.

–Father Bernie

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