25th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

There are two kinds of people who hear the Parable of the Servant in the Fields.  Those who are annoyed by it (and I can tell there are some of you out there) and those who love the parable and like to annoy those who are annoyed by it.  Guess which group I belong to?

I am going to try to convert you to my side, but first let’s set the situation.  The beauty of the story is that it is truly ancient and yet equally modern.  For in small towns and cities throughout the third world and in our state, trucks drive up to corners looking for workers for a daily wage.  Imagine that your task was the landowner’s.  Who would you choose?  I imagine you would choose the youngest, the strongest and the healthiest.  And if you came back at nine, noon and 3pm, you would do the same.  So who is left at 5pm? The oldest, the weakest and the ill.  That is why they have been standing there all day.  They are unwanted and not valued.

Sure they are going to get a break, but there’s was not an easy day.  It was a day of anxiety as they watched their chance of employment slipping away.  Then as now, those who work for daily wages are trying to meet daily expenses. They are not fretting about dipping into their kids’ college savings.  They are not about to run down to the local Palestinian Unemployment Office just as our day laborers have no access to benefits.  No by noon, they were thinking there will be no way to feed my whole family tonight.  At 3pm, they were thinking they were hired now, just maybe the kids could be fed.  When finally they begin working at 5pm, they are thinking I might just scrap together enough to get through another day.

But the Master knows their story.  The Master knows not only how to give what is deserved, but what is needed.  The Master is not limited to strict justice, but rejoices in a generous spirit.  Who could be angry with this?  Well the workers who were in the field all day, that is who.  Well, not at first actually.  When the see those who worked one hour receive the usual daily wage, they presume they will be paid more for they, “bore the day’s burden and the heat.”  When they complain the master argues his only sin is generosity.  He is keeping the deal he made at dawn with those workers who to will go home able to feed their families.  The youngest, strongest and healthiest may go away disappointed today, but you know what the youngest, strongest and healthiest become?  The oldest, the weakest and the ill.  They may very well want the largesse of the landowner one day for as we hear, “the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

How am I doing so far?  Are you convinced?  I have one more argument.
Most of the time when we hate on this Gospel we picture ourselves as the people working in the burning sun all day.  But that does not describe us all the time.  I know I have my five 0’clock days when I have not been as attentive, or caring or loving as I could be and yet the Lord forgives and still blesses me beyond reason.  God’s love and grace define my life.

Recently, I was doing a Vicar thing, blessing the Principals and Pastors of our Catholic schools.  Fr. John Bradley from Blessed Sacrament approached me for a blessing.  John has been Pastor there since I came to live in Albany as a college freshman.  He is a holy man and a model priest for me and so many others.  And here was coming for a blessing from me.  How embarrassing I thought for him.  (A thought I am sure never crossed his mind.)  I bowed and said I am not worthy before giving him the blessing.  You see compared to John Bradley, I feel like a five o’clock priest.

The truth is we should treat strangers with fairness, but not those we love.  Can you imagine saying to a loved one, “Well you did these things well today and these things poorly so I will love you only this amount?”  No, we are in the bag for those we love.  We give them the benefit of the doubt and more.  We want to heal their wounds and forgive their wrongs.  We want to give them our best all the time and in every way.  And that is who our God is for us.  God is the one madly in love with us.  God knows our story and cannot bear to see us without enough. God does not carefully measure love.  God gives salvation and peace and love the only way God knows how – by giving us everything.

So I have one last question for you:  do you want your God to carefully measure all that you have done and gives you only what you deserve?  Or do you want a God who knows our story, loves us and gives us beauty, hope and a love that never ends?