God’s unique employment terms
Readings: Is 55, 6-9; Ps 145, 2-3.8-9-17-18; Phil 1, 20-24.27; Mt 20, 1-16
The Word of God on the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time invites us to contemplate the difference between God’s ways and human ways. God seems to be having a problem, namely being unsettled when any human being is suffering. Divine justice seems to be terribly unfair if we look at it with human standards. Our thoughts are indeed not God’s thoughts.
Discover God’s surprises
The journey of faith that we make is an adventure which enables us to seek the Lord and seek to understand His ways. The prophet Isaiah encourages us: „Seek the Lord while the Lord may be found.“ The question would be to tell when God is to be found. Many times we turn to the Lord when we are confronted with a concrete crisis of life. There, we cry out to God for help. But then what happens when we are apparently „okay“? Is it also possible that we encounter God in an enemy? This question may even sound scandalous! The God we worship is a mystery. Whoever searches for His will should never make a full-stop. He is a God of surprises. God is mostly found in the least likely place that we can imagine. This means that we ought to keep our eyes open at all times.
Jesus is God’s way
Whereas human ways are different from God’s way, God decided to make his way known. This way is Jesus Christ. In Jesus we see the image of the living God. He chose to reveal His ways especially of dealing with us humans through Jesus the Christ. He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself (see Eph 1,9). God’s will is that all may receive salvation. God’s non-discriminative inclusivity has always disturbed humanity. Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, who considered himself to be the least and last of all the apostles saw his life in Christ and invites all to always behave in a way that is worthy of the gospel of Christ (second reading). Christ is the standard for Christians and no priorities should go beyond Him.
Human protest against God’s employment terms
Today’s gospel text is rooted in the mentality that prevailed in Jewish society. The Jews were a chosen people of God. They were of course the first ones to be called, the rest were thought not to have any right of accessing God’s favors. The pharissees in Jesus‘ time wanted to claim monopoly over righteousness because they „oberserved“ the will of God which they found in the mosaic law. They wouldn’t imagine sinners and tax collectors to be equal sharers of the Kingdom of God. This was also the challenge of Jesus‘ first disciples who had left everything in order to follow him. What were they to receive? Were they to receive more than the others who came after? The parable in today’s gospel clearly spells out the difference between human justice and divine justice. The landowner in the gospel may certainly not be the model for human employers, otherwise enterprises will be driven to ruins. The employer in the Gospel is concerned about the plight of the unemployed workers. He hires different workers at different times. His extraordinary generosity and compassion are seen in the distribution of the wages. All got the same. It is not the work done that is rewarded but a compassionate response of God to the real need of the worker is addressed by God. This turns the worldly justice formula upside down. This is to say that God gives us more than we deserve. His justice is based on mercy and compassion. In terms of salvation nobody should consider oneself as a „first-comer“ and all the rest „late-comers“.
Imitation of God’s generous goodness
The word of God encourages us to look at the creator who is responsible for all the blessings that we enjoy. He gives blessing out of his goodness and bounty. Our life in the world has been given to us as an undeserved, free gift. This is the meaning of grace. All our varied gifts have their common source in God. Jesus invites us to accept God’s extraordinary generosity. In most cases those who are most aware of their need for mercy are the first ones in the Kingdom of God. Whereas those who rely mainly on their resources will be preoccupied with the celebration of their achievements, the „last ones“ will be ready to be taken away from their idleness so as to receive what only grace can give. It is not surprising that some „pious chritians“ will grumble over the generosity of God when „sinners“ come closer to the Lord. May the heavenly Father help us to rejoice over His generosity wherever it appears and to be generous ourselves wherever we may be! Any attempt to fight unemployment is a participation in God’s “problem“ of seeing that every human being has a dignified life. It is good to give charity to the unemployed of our time, but hiring them for some work does not only serve to eleviate their need but also restores their dignity. And please don’t forget to give your employees their deserved wages and salaries but also in time!