“These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.” It is easy to feel the injustice of favoritism shown to those who do not deserve it – haven’t earned it. Why should the laborers who have yet to do any real work be rewarded with the full day’s wages? By human standards – it simply is not fair. But the landowner is not being unjust to those hired in the early morning. He does not reduce their wages or take anything away from them. Rather, He is being charitable, merciful, to those hired at the end of the day. He gave them more than mercy – he gave dignity.
Our parable this week reminds us once again to think not as humans do, but as God does. The prophet Isaiah tells us “seek the Lord…turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not my ways, says the Lord.” God is speaking to us about His standards – and particularly as they apply to His mercy and love. He is generous beyond all telling! We are called to focus on how God thinks. Think of Mary as she stood at the foot of the cross. She had done more, sacrificed more, suffered more, and been obedient more to God’s will than any other person in history. And here was Jesus her son, on the cross in his dying moments granting to a thief who had done only one act of faith, heaven that very day. The mercy and generosity of God knows no limits and places no one higher than another when it is asked for!
Our God takes outsiders and makes them insiders; our God doesn’t treat us according to our standards, but according to God’s. Each of us needs forgiveness and it is generously given to us; whether we thought we deserved it or not. God’s love is extended to all who desire it without condition for how much they have earned it. They only need to turn to Him, seek Him, and call upon Him. Those who wish change may have it and have it abundantly. For when we trust in God, we find His love is greater than our most profound hope. Likewise, we are called to share in God’s generosity as we deal with others – offering forgiveness and mercy to those who need it.
As Catholics and Vincentians, we encounter circumstances on a regular basis where people are asking for help who have done little to earn it. We also encounter many times – especially today – where people are in need through no fault of their own. We are called to extend help and His love and mercy as he has extended it to us. We are called to set aside our prejudices and our judgments responding to those He brings before us in complete Christian charity. “Are you envious because I am generous?” the owner says to those hired at sunrise, who protested that they did not receive more. The Lord is saying, ‘If you begrudge generosity to the less fortunate, then you cannot be a Christian.’ For injustice is not corrected by more injustice, but rather by mercy and compassion. When we extend help in this way, we are graced by Christ’s presence flowing through us. Am I able to set aside my judgements and freely offer assistance AND myself in love and compassion to everyone Christ brings before me?
Father, I pray for the humility to see your presence in even the most ‘underserving’ clients. Grant me the passion and desire to reach out in love and mercy as you reach out to me every day. Make my generosity of love blind to circumstance and free of conditions. Grant that I may respond to your will and trust in your Divine Providence as St. Vincent did. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen