“The Family of God: Laboring Without Agenda”
September 24, 2017
The Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jonah 3: 10-4: 11/ Psalm 145: 1 – 7/ Philippians 1: 15 – 18/ Matthew 20: 1 - 16
Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina
It is so refreshing to realize how great our God is when we begin to have our eyes open. Many times, we become so religious in our approach to God. We become so religious in our ways and even of our worship that we don’t realize that God is not so much concerned with religion as much as a heart that is totally submitted to Him, a heart that is desiring Him, and that loves Him so much.
The proclamation in every Mass is: Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” These are the two things that will mean most. We have tackled in Ordinary Time faith, forgiveness, authority, binding and losing, and there are eight more weeks in Ordinary Time. How much have we really grasped in the life that God wants to share with us and the life that God wants us to enjoy? How much have we lived that out?
In our gospel today, it brings our senses to a greater understanding of life. The message is so simple, but many times, we miss it. Jesus Christ wants to awaken to the truth of our salvation, to the truth of what we have been given and bestowed.
Matthew 20 is the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. There are two characters: the landowner, who represents God; and the laborers, who represents the members of His body. The landowner reveals the heart of God. He reveals that God is not a God of just one chance. God is a God of second chances. God is a God who is not after our mistakes, our faults or weaknesses. God is a God of mercy and compassion.
Many times, we view life from the perspective of men. Life must always be viewed from the perspective of the Creator of life. Every Sunday, we ascend to His throne, and we lift up our hearts so that we can see life the way God intended life to be lived out. We are not to live out life from man’s point of view.
In the parable, the laborers that were chosen were not regular laborers. They were in the totem pole of the labor market – at the very bottom; the daily wage earners; someone who was at the mercy of their employers. A servant, at least, belongs to a household and who has a regular job. They knew that they were still getting paid tomorrow or next week. A slave knew that he had a place to sleep with his master. He had something to eat and can bring to his family. A daily wage earner lived from day to day with uncertainty. What will happen tomorrow? He lives in an uncertainty of coming home to his children saying, “Dad was not able to find a job. No one hired me.”
The story shows the landowner’s heart coming first and then coming back. Even at the last moment, he hires all of them, and begins to employ them. The landowner, likes God, looks at us with eyes of love and compassion. Forgiveness is more than just the justification; forgiveness is the love of God. The landowner was a compassionate man just as God is a compassionate God.
Looking at the workers in the vineyard, the first ones that were hired were hired for a denarius, and they knew what they were going to get. The rest of the group were hired based on what the landowner would give them. The landowner said, “I will give you what is fitting. Go and whatever is right, I will give you.” There was no promise of what they would receive, and yet they still went. At the end of the day, the daily wage earners came back. The landowner beginning with the last one, the one who was hired at five o’clock in the afternoon, working for just an hour, received a denarius. A denarius was a minimum wage for a regular worker, and a Roman centurion received a denarius. It was not something that was required from the landowner to give. It could have been a tenth of a denarius, but he chose to give a denarius.
These workers came and were thankful, perhaps, for what the landowner gave until the whole group received. Until finally, the first ones who were hired at the first hour also received a denarius for what was promised to them by the landowner.
It is very easy for us to sympathize with the feelings that this first group had. They could have said, “It is unfair. I worked a whole day for what I can earn. They get the same as I did, and they only worked for one hour. I toiled for twelve hours, at least, I should receive twelve denarius or more than what I received.” It is a cry of humanity today for one’s rights, for one’s entitlement. We begin to judge people and even God as unfair.
Jesus wants us to understand that life is not about entitlement. Life is about the blessings of God. In Matthew 19, the chapter ended with Peter saying to Jesus, “Behold, Lord, we have left everything and followed You. What will then be there for us?” Jesus, with compassion, answered the question, “If you follow Me, you would receive much.” Then, the parable we have today follows this.
Today,we live in an age of entitlement. We feel we are entitled for something. It is very easy for us to succumb to the feelings of this. We must never forget that the life God gave us is a life of grace. Ephesians 2: 8-9 says, “For by grace, you have been saved, through faith, and none of yourselves. It is a gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no man may boast.” It is a basic truth for us to see the fullness of life that God intended for us to have. Many of us miss it because we are in an age of accomplishments, in the age of efficiency. As long as we are a functioning member of society, we are okay. Let us get rid of those who are dysfunctional, who are weak and lonely and marginalized them. They are not of use to the society. We think a drug addict does not have rights or a rebellious child has no right.
We live in an age where everyone must earn what they must receive. There is a truth to this, but the bigger picture is that our life if a life of grace. Grace is an acronym for God’s Resources At Christ’s Expense. It is not at our expense, but God’s expense. All the resources of heaven belong to us because of Christ. It is not what we did or what we accomplished and the goodness that we have shown to God. It is all of His grace.
Yesterday, I celebrated what I call “23 at 23”. This was my personal celebration for 23 years of serving God as a priest ordained on September 23. I was in the ministry for 35 years, and it is very easy to leave all of these years of service and say, “Lord, I deserve something better. As a priest, I deserve blessings and greater promotion.” It is very easy to succumb to this thought and to point a finger at a brother like the first group of laborers. Then, I began to realize that inspite of all my failures, inspite of all that have done, inspite of my rebellious life against my parents, inspite of my rebellious life against society, inspite of all my promiscuosness, inspite of all my pride, my sins, my shortcomings, inspite of my judging others, inspite of my adulterous thoughts against women, God still chose me to serve Him.
Salvation is not about what we deserve; perhaps, salvation is getting what we don’t deserve. “I don’t deserve to be a priest. I don’t deserve to serve God and stand before all of you to preach. I have failed many times. I have sinned against God and my neighbor.” Yet, God said, “I chose you and I called you to serve Me.” “I don’t deserve my wife; she deserves a greater and more faithful husband. I don’t deserve my children.” They deserve a better father. Yet, God gave them all to me because of His grace and only by His grace.
When we begin to look at life at this viewpoint, we begin to see that life is not what we are entitled to. We begin to be thankful for what we should not get but received. To have a family, to have the privilege to be entrusted with a Church, I don’t deserve, but God, with His grace, has given life to me, to you and to all of us.
We have received what we don’t deserve, but we still got it because of God’s grace. See life no longer in the eyes of what we did or the works that we do. We are where we are because of His grace and mercy.
Extending the story, imagine the feeling of the man hired at five o clock. When he left home, he was taking his chance that he would be hired. Time passed an hour after another and he was not hired until the last hour. He may have felt the hopelessness that he would go home to his family without any job and without anything to feed them. Yet, at five o’clock, grace appeared to him so that he can come home and sit with his family saying to his family, “My children, did you know that somebody chose me even at the last hour?” It was the grace of the landowner that he was chosen and he was hired and was given a denarius. It was all the grace of God. This is the same grace that God wants us to realize that we all enjoy today. It is not what we are entitled to, but what we have received and do not deserve to receive.
GRACE - God’s Resources At Christ’s Expense lived out in our lives today!