September 24, 2023
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Readings for Today
“When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.” Matthew 20:8–10
Is life always fair? It would seem not. We have all experienced situations in life when we felt as though we were cheated. Children are especially sensitive to this and will often complain to a parent when they feel as though they have been treated unjustly. From an earthly perspective, it is true that life is not always fair. But we ought not live by an earthly perspective. We are called to live according to the divine perspective. From that perspective, everything is fair in the end, and true justice is meted out to everyone.
When we consider the question of whether or not life is fair, we should always begin with the Son of God. Jesus was certainly not treated fairly. In fact, it is hard to conclude that anyone who has ever lived received a more unjust treatment than Jesus, at least from an earthly perspective. He was perfect in every way. He treated everyone throughout His life with perfect virtue. He never lied, cheated, stole, etc. Yet we all know what happened to Him. He was falsely accused, dishonestly judged, brutally abused, and murdered on a cross. From an earthly perspective, it is clear that this was not fair.
Jesus’ life, along with ours, must not be evaluated from the perspective of earthly justice. It’s not that treating others unjustly is permissible by the will of God. Each of us has a moral responsibility to act in justice as a minimum requirement. But we are also called to exceed earthly justice and live by the new standard of supernatural grace. From that perspective, Jesus’ suffering and death was not tragic; it was glorious. His Cross was not an instrument of injustice, it was His throne upon which He established His new Kingdom. Once grace enters the picture, all apparent injustice is turned upside down and must be looked at from a different perspective.
The parable we read today presents to us the scenario in which God has chosen to bestow His grace and mercy in abundance to all who turn to Him. We can never earn the right to His mercy. Nothing we can do will ever give us the right to the gift of eternal salvation. Therefore, this parable especially challenges us to look at Heaven and the life of grace on earth from the perspective of “gift.” All is a gift from God. Whether we convert at the end of our lives, after living sinful lives, or whether we have spent our whole lives serving the will of God, all is a gift in the end, all is grace.
Only when we comprehend God’s goodness and infinite generosity will we be able to overcome our temptations toward jealousy and selfishness. Those who have dedicated their entire lives to the love of God, if it is a genuine love and service of God, will, as a result, take on the perspective of the mind and heart of God. Part of that perspective is the burning desire to generously bestow God’s infinite grace and mercy upon everyone who turns to Him. Even the most hardened sinner who has been the source of much hurt in life is a candidate for the fullness of God’s grace if they repent. This must be our desire. We must be like the landowner in this parable who rejoices when laborers show up in the last hour and then lavishes a full day’s wages upon them. Not only is this fair from the divine perspective, it must become our personal desire as we labor through life.
Reflect, today, upon how deeply you desire to see those who have not yet given their lives to God to come to Him and receive the fullness of grace. Look at them within the context of this parable. Examine how you feel about those laborers who have not yet begun their service of God. Examine, also, your feelings toward those who seem undeserving of the fullness of God’s grace. If you find that you have jealousy, or judge others from the perspective of earthly justice, work to eliminate that perspective so that your heart’s deepest desire is to see God bestow the fullness of mercy upon everyone in this world when they turn to Him with a contrite heart.
Most merciful Lord, You are generous beyond comprehension. You bestow mercy upon those who turn to You from their sin and seek to serve Your holy will. May I be among those who labor in Your vineyard, and may I also be among those who desire to see everyone accept the invitation to receive the fullness of Your grace. Jesus, I trust in You.