Today’s readings remind us that if we want to understand God’s outlook on life we need to not only understand the depths of his love and generosity, but imitate them.
In today’s First Reading we’re reminded that the Lord’s thoughts and ways are miles above our own. He is always close to us, just like a loving parent whom we can always call. He is not just close to the just, but to “scoundrels” as well, ready to help them turn away from their evil ways and thoughts. He is generous in forgiving. Pope Francis on more than one occasion has reminded us that the Lord never tires of forgiving us; rather, we tire of seeking his forgiveness. He will forgive anything for which we are truly sorry. Anything. It’s our limited human attitudes on love and generosity that make us doubt that sometimes.
In today’s Second Reading St. Paul reminds us that the generosity of Christ is not just something to admire, but to imitate. Paul had every right to hope for a heavenly reward at the end of his life: being with Christ. He longed for it. However, he also knew his flock still needed him. He still had work to do on earth. His flock can show gratitude for him “putting off” Heaven for their benefit: by showing that his generosity was worth it. The way we show Our Lord that his generosity was worth it is by conducting ourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ, just as Paul encourages his flock to do today.
In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that it doesn’t matter when we start to help to extend the Kingdom of heaven, but that we extend it. We’ll be rewarded fairly, even generously, for our labors, and we shouldn’t fall into envy if it seems someone has had an easier time of it or came late to the party. In Jesus’ time a day’s wage was exactly that: it enabled the worker to live for a day. There was not much surplus wealth, and charging someone interest for borrowing something was a sin known as usury. The workers who came late to the vineyard needed a full day’s wage in order to provide for themselves and for their families. Anyone who is trying to support their family through a part time job knows it is not the same as a full-time job.
The landowner is helping people who really need it. An attitude of envy sees someone else’s gain as our loss. We should be thankful for the ability to earn a living for ourselves and our families, and be grateful when someone else in difficulty receives a little help too. We’ve all been the recipients of a disproportionate love and generosity on the Lord’s part, no matter how long we’ve served and followed him. The grace of our salvation, which we receive at baptism, was not merited by us in any way whatsoever. Most of us were drooling, happy infants when our parents brought us to the baptismal font. The workers hired in today’s Gospel weren’t entitled to getting work, no matter what time of day they started working.
Sometimes we think the Lord must be very measured and calculating in his generosity, but nothing is farther from the truth. He is constantly trying to be generous in our regard. We don’t see it sometimes because his generosity is rebuffed. His generosity is not conditioned by our actions or selfishness. If we really want to share Our Lord’s outlook we need to show that same liberality in our generosity. Commit one senseless act of kindness this week. Don’t condition it by what outcome you foresee, whether the recipient deserves it or appreciates it. It’s not an investment; give expecting nothing in return.
Readings: Isaiah 55:6–9; Psalm 145:2–3, 8–9, 17–18; Philippians 1:20c–24, 27a; Matthew 20:1–16a.