Things to Ponder
I use this page to share messages of an inspirational nature, or simply something to ponder. It is my hope that you will always be inspired.
Homily Reflections - Matthew 20:1-16 - 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Introduction: A Shocking, Out of This World Justice
This is a difficult passage! From our perspective and experiences, it makes no sense. But the purpose of the parables in the Gospels is to “shock” us into seeing reality in a far different way.
On the surface, this parable of the workers in the vineyard appears to be a real “shocker.” Those who work a longer day ought to be paid more than those who work just an hour or two. When viewed in this way, the landowner seems unfair. That is because we are reading into the parable our own preconceived notions of how fairness and equality should be quantified. What a counter-culture idea!
A close read shows that the landowner was indeed just and paid on the terms that were negotiated. However, the parable goes beyond that – and we come to see that the landowner is not simply just, he is exceptionally just. He is radically just – with an “out of this world” justice!
An important point is made in the landowner’s actions. As a figure for God in this story, his actions show that God’s generosity - which is not merited! – is freely lavished on those most in need. God’s generosity does no injustice, but neither can it be calculated or earned. The story is about people getting what they deserve: all have the right to eat for the day. All are to be treated with respect and dignity. Regardless of who they are.
From the position of the day laborers, who are on the lowest economic rung, and who stand waiting all day for work, the wage given them enables them to feed their family for one more day. Gives them dignity in facing themselves and their families. In God’s realm, justice means that all are fed and treated as a sign of God’s equal and inclusive love. It does not mean “getting what we deserve.”
This ties in another key point. This parable challenges those disciples (fully employed) who have enough to meet their daily needs to reject acquisitiveness and attend to the needs of those who are in desperate straits (hourly pay).
In short, this baffling parable reminds us that although God owes us nothing, he offers abundantly and equally. You and I are occasionally tempted to think that our own actions deserve more reward, more of God’s abundant mercy, than the actions of others. But God’s generosity cannot be quantified or partitioned into different amounts for different people. God is not a “calculator God!”
I would invite you to take time to read and ponder the words from the Gospel of Matthew 20:1-16.
What word or words caught your attention?
What in this passage comforted you?
What in this passage challenged you?
Are there times when I consider myself more deserving than others? Why is that?
Further Questions and Reflections:
God gives his love to every person without exception. It does not matter whether that happens early or late in life as this love can never be earned, only accepted. The fact that the latecomers were only employed at the last hour does not make their needs any less than those who came earlier. How big is my need for God today? Name those needs.
The landowner introduces a new style: people work hard, but their work has dignity – and even those who did not manage to find work for the whole day receive enough to safeguard their dignity. The “rules” of the Kingdom of Heaven are far different: they go beyond strict justice and create respect and solidarity. Lord Jesus, may your kingdom come into our world – a world so full of injustice and tension.
“Are you envious because I am generous?” Let this question linger in your heart: Do I rejoice at the gifts others have?
If you and I have problems with this parable, we are not yet on Jesus’ wave-length.
Deacon David Suley
St. Patrick Catholic Church
Published with Permission