September 24, 2017
The 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 20, 1-16
Matthew 20, 1-16
We are invited to learn something about God, “The Land Owner”, and in so doing, we find out something about ourselves. The verses will not explain divine justice, but stir us to wonder about how God acts toward us. Even adjusted to the time and place in history from which it comes, the story makes no sense. After all, what employer who was going to do what this one did would have the ones who worked the longest hang around to be paid last and see what was going on? He would have paid them first and had them out of there so they would not see what those who came last received. This behavior makes no sense unless you are Matthew’s Jesus and want to stop people in their tracks and leave them wondering.
Wonder, we should, at this story of God’s care for us. The trouble is, we don’t wonder. We are too busy looking around at everyone else. Instead of being focused on God, and living in that provident, loving friendship, we are comparing and competing, day in and day out. Instead of living with our gaze on the source of all that we have, we are looking to see who got what, how much, and when. Echoes of our childhood are heard in our whining. “It’s not fair! He got a bigger piece!” Sometimes the laments are unspoken, but heard nonetheless. The rejection comes from a job we wanted. Someone we know gets more financial aid for school, and we need it more. Someone else gets a raise, and their work isn’t as good as ours……
Toxic thoughts get internalized and lead to depression and anger. A parable about God gives us reason to think about ourselves. A parable about God calls into question the ideology of entitlement and uncovers our self-centered, self-serving, competitive vision of things. But the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner, it says. And the landowner is the one we should be thinking of. If the parable is true, it leaves us humbled, embarrassed by our whining, and stunned once again by grace. Few of us have earned a full day’s wage; and I suspect that those who have would think they had not done enough. Probably if we were not so worried about what everyone else has, concentrated a little more on what we do have and what we can do with it because of the one who gave it and called us to use it, there would be a lot less anger, resentment, and jealousy spoiling our days in the vineyard. The results of those days would certainly be more productive.
Fr. Tom Boyer