Wednesday, August 19, 2015

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

There is something perverse about more than enough. When we have more, it is never enough. It is always somewhere out there, just out of reach. The more we acquire, the more elusive enough becomes. –Unknown

Gospel text (Mt 20,1-16): Jesus said to his disciples, «This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven. A landowner went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay the workers a salary of a silver coin for the day, and sent them to his vineyard. He went out again at about nine in the morning, and seeing others idle in the square, he said to them: ‘You, too, go to my vineyard and I will pay you what is just’. So they went. The owner went out at midday and again at three in the afternoon, and he did the same. Finally he went out at the last working hour —it was the eleventh— and he saw others standing there. So he said to them: ‘Why do you stay idle the whole day?’ They answered: ‘Because no one has hired us’. The master said: ‘Go and work in my vineyard’.

»When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager: ‘Call the workers and pay them their wage, beginning with the last and ending with the first’. Those who had come to work at the eleventh hour turned up and were given a denarius each (a silver coin). When it was the turn of the first, they thought they would receive more. But they, too, received a denarius each. So, on receiving it, they began to grumble against the landowner. They said: ‘These last hardly worked an hour, yet you have treated them the same as us who have endured the day’s burden and heat’. The owner said to one of them: ‘Friend, I have not been unjust to you. Did we not agree on a denarius a day? So take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last the same as I give to you. Don't I have the right to do as I please with my money? Why are you envious when I am kind?’. So will it be: the last will be first, the first will be last».

God loves us all, and God gives all His love, all of it, to every person without exception who opens himself to it. He gives it to those who may have been born and raised Christians and lived out their faith loyally to the end, and to those who may have been great sinners right up to the end, but at the very end turn to God for forgiveness. It does not matter whether turning to the salvific love of God happens early or late. God’s love can never be earned, only accepted. In the Parable, the fact that the latecomers were only employed at the last hour does not reduce the Master of the vineyard to measuring out his wages hour by material hour. Similarly, God will not limit His love to mathematical segments of a time-earned wage.

God’s justice is measured by His own desire that everyone receive the fullness of His love. There are not various degrees of that love. It is always 100 percent. God is Love; he cannot not love and he cannot not love totally. He cannot and will not give more of that love to one than another.

God’s way of loving is what we are called to emulate. We are given the grace to love one another without reservation, without being stingy. We are called to love in ways echoed in the prayer for generosity penned by St. Ignatius of Loyola. In terms echoing the truth of today’s gospel parable, that prayer might be paraphrased this way:

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous with my love -- to love without reservation. Teach me to serve you by loving the others you place in my life as you love me. Teach me to give this love and not to count the cost of it. To fight for love in our world with all its enmity, hurt, and need for reconciliation. To toil for the Lord’s Kingdom of love, and not to seek for rest, to labor for it and not to seek reward, or any sort of wage! The only thing I ask is the grace to accept your love for me and the wisdom to know that in loving others, I am doing the Will of Our Father, as you did throughout your life and in the end, as you did it so utterly and generously from the Cross.

1 comment:

  1. I understand that it is a parable, and that it speaks of one's final judgement, but it does beg the question: who would show up early on the next day, ie, wouldn't everyone show up at the last hour? :-D