GOSPEL REFLECTION: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time year A
by Rev. Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines
GOSPEL: Matthew 20:1-16
Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples. "The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, "You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right." So they went.
When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same. And about five o'clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, "Why are you standing here idle all day?" They said to him, "Because no one has hired us." He said to them, "You also go into the vineyard."
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, "Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first." When those hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.
Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, "These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat." But he replied to one of them, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?"
"So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
In today's Gospel parable , we are invited to reflect upon a more profound message of the story. The message is so powerful that we can see ourselves in the story and that we can apply it to our daily existence. Seemingly, the parable discussed with us the issue about wages. Or it may seem to tell us something about other people receiving more blessings and favors from God. But there's more to it than meets the eye. Let us then try to examine today's Gospel text:
There was an unusual landowner, who seemed to me more concerned about giving work to the unemployed rather than his personal profit. He cares to them so much that he goes out, not once, but several times during the day to see if there are people out there who may be looking for work that they may be able to feed their families. He found the first batch of workers who had agreed upon a set wage. He went out again to look for more workers about noon, about three o'clock and about five o'clock. These were promised a fair wage. When the work was done , each of them received the usual daily wage.To the first batch of workers this seem to be so utterly unfair.So they grumbled against the landowner, saying, "These last worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat." The landowner was accused of being unfair. And as Jesus explains to us that the landowner in the parable is God. God therefore is the one being questioned about fairness. In a way, there was no question of injustice here for they were paid according to what they had agreed. What then is the Gospel of today telling us about?
First, The Parable highlights Divine generosity and love.When we pay a somebody in accordance to what is prescribed by the law, it is being fair and just. But when we give more than what is prescribed by the law, it is being generous and kind.The Gospel, therefore,is telling us not to be afraid to go beyond justice and what is fair, but always go on the side of generosity, kindness and love. We have a kind, generous , forgiving and a loving God. And Jesus by his examples revealed these to us. During the crucifixion , one of the thieves who was crucified with him said, "Jesus, remember me when you enter paradise." The repentant thief was not only promised paradise but at that instant given salvation. Isn't that an extreme display of God's generosity and love? And who are we to question God's generosity? When we are tempted to do so, we may ponder upon the words of Isaiah in the first reading of today: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Second, The Parable points to us one of man's deadly weaknesses i.e. Envy. "Are you envious because I am generous?" It is , therefore, very clear that the question here is not about justice or being fair but of envy. Envy is spiritual poison. It is poison of the heart. Envy is feeling sadness or anger at someone else's success and good fortune. Some people thought that envy and jealousy are the same. No, they are different. For instance, when I am jealous of a somebody, I could see something good in the person that I want to possess inordinately. But when I am envious of a someone, I do not want to possess the good that he has rather I want to destroy it. When one is envious, he takes delight in the thought of other people's downfall. In today's Gospel, the first batch of workers cannot rejoice with the other workers who came late but received the same wage. Resentment rather than gratitude got a hold of them. They cannot rejoice because they were so envious. They wish to take revenge of them. Some people are envious when God's graces of forgiveness and love are given to others in equal measure. People have a tendency to look highly of themselves. They have the tendency to be resentful of what others receive from God. Oftentimes, justice and fairness rather than forgiveness, generosity,and love is the measure by which we regard others.
Story: Two travelers- one was greedy and the other was jealous - went into an enchanted forest. Thereupon , they chanced a mysterious lady who said she would grant them a wish but with this instructions - "Whoever made a wish first, would have his wish fulfilled. But the other man would get a double portion of what the first had asked for."
Each one waited and waited for the other fellow to wish first. No one of them would like to make a wish first , simply because one is greedy and the other is envious. Finally, the greedy man took the envious man by the throat and threatened to choke him unless he made his wish. So the envious man said,
"Alright, I'll make a wish first. I wish to be blind in one eye."
At once he lost the sight of one eye, while his companion lost both.
Indeed, envy is a poison of the soul. It harms always the one who is guilty of it.
Jesus wants us to learn to rejoice at other peoples blessings rather than be envious of them. Learn to be happy for others. Let us stop comparing ourselves to others in order for us to create room for grace to emerge in our own lives. And let us put our trust completely in a loving and gracious God.