Our human idea of justice is not the same as God’s idea of justice!


 

Today’s gospel parable on the Laborers in the Vineyard, unique to Matthew, continues the theme of the last will be first. And one may ask, “where is the justice?”

In the parable, it’s easy to see that the first workers hired have a different idea than the landowner about what is “a just wage.” Likewise, our human idea of justice is not the same as God’s idea of justice. We serve a God who is exceedingly generous. Much more generous than most of us! He wants to give good rewards to anyone who does His work, even when it seems to be very little work, by human standards.  Notice that in today’s parable, not one of the workers in the vineyard was shortchanged. Nor will any of us be shortchanged who work in the Lord’s vineyard. Did the landowner in today’s gospel run out of money? No! Likewise, God’s grace and mercy are abundant, and there is more than enough for everyone! We can say with the psalmist in today’s responsorial, “My cup overflows.”

There is great tragedy in unemployment, the loss of work, and the inability to earn enough to live and support oneself or one’s family. In Jesus’ times laborers had to wait each day in the marketplace until someone hired them for a day’s job. No work that day usually meant no food on the family table. The laborers who worked all day and received their payment complain that the master pays the late afternoon laborers the same wage. The master, undoubtedly, hired them in the late afternoon so they wouldn’t go home payless and hungry.

And With high unemployment across the world today, and the parable’s emphasis on what is just compensation for work done, there could be great interest in hearing this gospel.   We are just as prone today to think the owner of the vineyard is unfair as was true for the people of Jesus’ day.  We would expect the workers to be compensated equally for the hours worked.  We feel those who worked longer should be paid more, that they have a right to a bigger paycheck.  Here again gospel values confound our human wisdom into foolishness.

Jesus, by your words and actions you show the face of God, our loving Father and Shepherd. You show God as one who cares and whose love is not measured out according to our deserts but rather poured out without measure.

It seems unfair that the landowner didn’t recognize true worth or effort. Perhaps the whole point of the story is that we are all late-comers to the vineyard. Our efforts are quite puny. but God gives us the ‘full day’s wage’—eternal life. You, Jesus, the gift of God’s love, assure us how much God takes our concerns to heart, how much he cherishes us. Never will God drive a hard bargain, for he is love. O Lord, help me not to get “stuck” by my own limited human ideas about what is just.  Help me to “go with the flow” of Your kingdom  and celebrate Your generosity and mercy. Amen.

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