Wednesday, August 20, 2014

“Men often mistake killing and revenge for justice. They seldom have the stomach for true justice.”

“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice; we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident & martyr)

Gospel Text: (MT 20:1-16)
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
he found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
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.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

How challenging it is to understand the mind and thoughts of God! On the surface, the landowner simply was not fair in paying the workers who worked all day the same as those who only worked an hour. Through the lens that we see the world, the landowner’s generosity was not representing just treatment to the workers who labored longer. Our competitive socialization makes it hard to accept “the last shall be first, and the first will be last” in this context.

A popular saying asserts that «justice per se is the worst injustice». Luckily for us, God's justice —let us repeat it again— exceeds our schemes. If it would be a matter of mere and strict justice, we would still be pending of redemption. What is even more, we would not have any hope of redemption. In strict justice, we should not deserve any redemption: we would simply remain disowned of what we were given in the moment of Creation when we rejected God starting with the original sin of Adam & Eve. So, when we have to deal with others let us examine ourselves, to find out how we are doing regarding judgments, comparisons and estimations.

Furthermore, we have to start from the basis that all is grace. The most evident example of this is the case of Dimas, the good thief, who died next to Jesus on the cross. Not only is the possibility of being deserving before God a grace (something that is freely given to us) but God is the master, our «landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard» (Mt 20:1). The vineyard (that is, life, heaven...) is his; we are just invited guests.

Do we view our daily service to God and our brothers and sisters as a privilege? When doubt creeps in because of the pressures of the world recall Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.” Amen!

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