Scripture Reflection, September 24, 2023, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 55:6-9 Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a Matthew 20:1-16a
Today's gospel reading is the first one I remember paying attention to as a child. And that was because it offended my child’s sense of fairness. Now that I am a grown-up it makes perfect sense.
What a difference in perspective comes from moving from a child's point of view to the point of view of an adult, or even, as in today's readings, to God's point of view: "As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” (Isaiah)
The child in us, like the workers hired first in the gospel, equates reward with effort and assumes that everyone starts in the same place. But when land owners go out to hire workers they find laborers who are not all the same. Some are younger than others, some stronger than others. Those will be the workers hired first. The landowner in today's gospel on his last trip hires those who have been passed over all day.
When it comes time to pay his workers the owner of the vineyard chooses to look at what his workers need to feed their families, not the hours they have worked. Those who have worked all day get rewarded with a full day’s pay as agreed upon. They are not treated unjustly. But they complain when the owner of the vineyard looks with mercy upon those who have not been able to work as long, despite having looked for work all day.
Parents of several children realize how wise the owner of the vineyard is. They do not treat each of their children exactly the same, because the children are not exactly the same. They each need different things in order to thrive. The wisdom in this approach is probably not appreciated until those children have children of their own.
The implications for our civic life are obvious. We do not all start in the same place, for a variety of reasons. Maybe we are new to this country, having come here to seek a better life, but struggle with a new language and new ways. Maybe the schools in our neighborhood have not equipped us for success. Maybe we have not been hired or promoted for reasons that do not have to do with the quality of our work.
To treat each other with the love and mercy that God shows to us is a challenge. Indeed, our ways are not naturally God’s ways. But it is a challenge we are called to take up if we are serious about the reign of God.
by: Pat Schnee