READINGS: Isaiah 55:6-9 / Philippians 1:20, 27 / Matthew 20:1-16
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Thus says the Lord: “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8). This point is illuminated by the parable in today’s gospel reading (Matt. 20:1-16). The labourers who worked the whole day thought that they would be paid more than those who worked for only an hour. However, the generous landowner thought differently; he paid those who worked the whole day the agreed amount of a denarius each and paid those who worked for lesser hours the same amount. Similarly, whereas we give different rewards for different outputs, God, whose ways are not our ways, gives the same ultimate reward to all who obey Him.
One’s thoughts or ways of doing things are based on several factors. These include the following: the level or degree of his/her knowledge, love, mercy, and generosity. Firstly, whereas God’s knowledge of the past, present, and future is absolute, our knowledge is very limited. For instance, in the choice of the second king of Israel, whereas God who had full knowledge of the past, present, and future of the young man, David, looked into the interior of his heart, Samuel, whose knowledge was limited, based his choice of the king on the external appearances of the other sons of Jesse (cf. 1 Sam. 16:1-12).
Secondly, whereas God’s love is entirely unconditional, our love is often conditional. For instance, it was out of a love that was entirely unconditional that God offered His Son in sacrifice for the atonement of our sins (cf. John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10). On the other hand, the best expression of our love seeks a reward even if not from its beneficiary.
Thirdly, whereas God’s mercy is boundless, ours is limited. For instance, God had mercy on the repentant thief and received him into Paradise (cf. Luke 23:42-43). We may show mercy to others, but may find it difficult to forgive one who steals our treasure.
Fourthly, whereas God’s generosity is unlimited, ours is limited. God is like the landowner in today’s gospel reading who gives us more than we deserve. On the other hand, while we can be generous, our generosity is limited; for often we give people what we think they deserve. Even sometimes we give them less than they deserve.
Like the landowner in today’s gospel reading, God gives same ultimate reward to all who obey Him. His ultimate reward to us is life in heaven. No human being by his/her own merit deserves to be blessed with life in heaven. It is, rather, the sacrifice of Jesus which has opened the gate of heaven for us. So, life in heaven is a reward exceedingly greater than what any human being deserves to receive by his/her efforts. Indeed, it is out of the abundance of God’s generosity, love, mercy and knowledge of limited capacity of humans that we are blessed with life in heaven.
So God’s reward of life in heaven is a generous gift to both the first-comers and the last-minute-comers. We are all precious in God’s sight: whether we became Christians at “infancy” or we are late converts – remember the gracious reward to the repentant thief on the cross. Therefore, in our parish life, for instance, let us avoid the attitude of MSc (Mr. /Mrs. /Ms. Special Christian/Catholic); for every parishioner is special to God.
Finally, we can learn from the gospel reading that God calls us to heaven at different times. Thus, in the parable, some were called to work at daybreak, others at 9am, 12 noon, 3pm and even 5pm (11th hour). Similarly, God calls us to heaven at different times. Age does not determine the calling time, for in God’s eyes a thousand years are like a day (Psalm 90). Therefore, like the workers who were ready with their tools as they awaited someone to employ them, we should look forward to our calling by God with the tools of faith and good works. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis