Today’s Gospel from Matthew confuses most people. Why in the world do these latecomers get the same blessings as the early birds? What is up with that? Doesn’t that seem horribly unfair? How can someone who works less than me be paid the same as me?
Just breathe a minute. Is this one of those maybe it’s not really about me stories? The answer might be found in today’s psalm:
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.
The Lord is just in all his ways,
and kind in all his doings.
Hmmm…gracious, merciful, good to all, just in all his ways and kind are words we aspire to but often fall short of our own goals. The marvelous thing about God is God always gives more than we can ask or imagine. I have been on the end of that outpouring of generosity. I sure hope you have too. Why would we begrudge it when God chooses to be abundantly loving to someone else? If we put the workers in a modern-day tale, maybe the worker showed up late because he was up all night with a sick child or maybe came only by the afternoon because she had been frightened to leave her apartment due to a mental illness. We do not know people’s stories. Only God does; only God can judge. We know our own stories and in the Gospel the landowner never breaks his promise to pay those who arrived early. Towards those people he still acts justly; to the others he is more lavish. Do I really need to know why? Contrarily, why some days do I appear to be the 5:00 worker that others are grumbling about? Is it still unfair when that other person is me?
It is hard sometimes to see that life is fair, when it does not seem that way. We have a God who loves us steadfastly and abundantly. We are called to seek the Lord while he may be found with the understanding that God’s ways are not ours as the First Reading points out. This mystery does confuse us because we look at what is not ours to complain about. If God makes the rain to water both flower and weed, why not us? We all may have a shopping list of questions at the Pearly Gates, but maybe while we linger here a bit it might be better to meditate on God’s abundant mercy and generosity than to whine about what seems unfair.