When Is Unfair Fair?

24 September 2017
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel Today
Mt 20: 1-16

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
the landowner found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Refection (Sem. Eldrick S. Peña)

When I was still teaching, there were moments that I have to make some adjustments in the grades of students out of my compassion and generosity to them. Additional points that I give varied depending on the need of particular students to pass the course. Generally, those who got very low grades would be given more additional points and those who got higher grades already would be given lesser additional points and some of them would complain saying “It’s unfair!”
This could have also been the sentiment of those workers who came earliest in the vineyard – the Master is unfair!
Among all the parables, we can say that this parable is the most unfair; using our notion of justice which of course is influenced by our own circumstances and by our opinions about what we and others deserve.
But the parable is not about justice. It is more about God’s generosity. God is so generous that he looks at every one of us equally – both the strong and weak, the skilled and unskilled; the healthy and the sickly. Everyone matters to the Master! Those that were hired early in the day are the strong and skilled ones and those who were hired on the latter parts of the day were the weak, the elderly and the unskilled. Nobody wanted to hire them because they are unqualified. But because of the master’s generosity, he probably could have intentionally searched for them for he went out at various time intervals and found them and invited them to work in his vineyard. The master has a heart for the poor and the neglected.
Indeed, God is so generous that he allows His graces to flow abundantly to everyone. His generosity can never be outdone.
It is good to ask, “What are some of my experiences of God’s abounding generosity?”

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