XXV SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
isaiah 55:6-9; philippians 1:20c-24, 27a; matthew 20:1-16a
robert de moor in «the banner» writes:
«back in ontario when the apples ripened, mom would sit all seven of us down… with pans and knives until the mountain of fruit was reduced to neat rows of filled canning jars. she never bothered keeping track of how many we did… when the job was done, the reward for everyone was the same: the largest chocolate-dipped cone money could buy.
a stickler might argue it wasn’t quite fair... but i can’t remember anyone complaining about it. a family understands it operates under a different set of norms than a courtroom.»
when we understand the kingdom of GOD as a family—with a different yardstick of fairness and equality—we will cease «complaining» about the parable of the vineyard workers!
the landowner seems unfair. human justice says those who work a full-day should be paid more than those who work less.
the landowner pays those who laboured the whole day the agreed-upon full-day’s wage. he generously pays the «late-comers» what he thinks is just: a full-day’s wage (the «usual daily wage» was enough only for «daily bread» for a worker’s family. were the owner not to pay the late-comers the full daily wage, their families would go hungry).
further, the parable is about GOD’s invitation to collaborate in the work of the kingdom.
the kingdom is not something that can be earned/achieved through human effort. true, we must do all we can to receive it: keep sowing the word, keep launching the boat and casting the net, keep loving with all our strength. GOD’s offer is for all people… an offer that is repeated often and throughout the «day». each receives what each needs: «daily bread» and fullness of life. GOD does not partition grace into different amounts for different people; he gifts his grace abundantly and equally to all… regardless of what hour they accept his offer.
unfair? the first reading reminds us: «my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.»
will i do my part and allow GOD’s grace to do the rest? will i begrudge GOD’s fairness to the late-comer… forgetting that i am a late-comer, too, and don’t merit his grace?
an anecdote that highlights the importance of grace vis-à-vis the kingdom:
a man dies and goes to heaven. st peter meets him at the pearly gates and says: «here’s how it works. you need 100 points to make it into heaven. you tell me all the good things you’ve done; i give you points for each act depending on its goodness. when you reach 100, you get in.» the man starts: «i was married to the same women for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.» «wonderful!» says peter, «that’s worth three points.»
he says: «only three points? i attended church all my life and supported its ministry.» «terrific!» says peter, «that’s worth a point.»
«one point? well i started a soup kitchen and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.» «fantastic, that’s good for two more points,» peter says.
the man cries: «at this rate the only way to get into heaven is by GOD’s grace of god!» and peter smiled: «that’s 100 points! come on in!»