“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
The idea of fairness is ingrained in us going all the way back to childhood. From the playground to the classroom and back to the dinner table, our caregivers always told us to treat people fairly. So what’s wrong with today’s Gospel? Nothing really.
Jesus gives us an important lesson in understanding God’s concept of fairness—or better yet, generosity. In a telling parable, he recounts the story of aggrieved laborers who were paid the same amount as workers who came into the fields later in the day. “Why should they get paid the same as us when we did most of the work?” went the argument. After listening to the grumbling, the wise landowner explained that he paid everyone exactly as promised.
You could say God wasn’t playing fair. But you could also say that God is all about giving us more than we deserve according to our needs. In fact, if we only got back in divine grace what we earned, we would be an unhappy lot! We depend on God to shower us with blessings. So today’s lesson, for me, is practice generosity and don’t look back.
When I first went to Peru as a young missioner, I had to learn something about generosity myself. Every year, the Aymara people would hold an extravagant fiesta for the entire community that cost what I’m sure was a small fortune. I was scandalized. What a waste of time and money, I thought. Eventually, I learned that this annual event was one of the things that held the community together. A celebration of life with food, music, and local custom was an act of generosity, and a community-building experience. I realized that I was wrong, and they were right. Being generous is a reflection of God’s infinite goodness.
Friend, no one is unemployed in the Kingdom of God as Pope Francis is fond of saying. We are all called to do our part, toiling in the vineyards of life. If we have moments when something seems unfair, we can remember that the compensation we seek—salvation in Christ—is not always merited but freely given by a loving and generous God. That’s seeing beyond the horizon of our own limitations—and accepting our hoped-for reward.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Father Raymond J. Finch, M.M.
Prayer for 3rd Sunday, September 20, 2020
God of justice, fairness, and truth
You do not punish us as our sins
deserve nor repay us as our guilt demands,
but pour on our self-inflicted wounds
mercy, forgiveness, and love beyond measure.
O Lord of infinitive compassion,
teach us to judge with an open mind
and give with a generous hand
even as You have bestowed upon us
every good gift and blessing.
Sharing the bounty of sea and earth
may we imitate Your boundless love
to build and celebrate the reign of God
in our day and in our midst
turning strangers into friends
and friends into family.
Prayer by Maryknoll Missioner, Father Joseph Veneroso