The Generosity of God

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A) Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalms 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18; Philippians 1:20-24, 27; Matthew 20:1-16

“But that’s not fair!”  Most parents have heard this phrase umpteen times.  The notion of fairness, also known as justice, is wired into us.  It makes us aware that each of us has certain rights that need to be respected.

But it also means that we each have duties.  If others have the right to be paid for their work, those who benefit from that work have the duty to pay them.  If others have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we have the duty not to let our pursuit of happiness infringe on their rights.

But we have to widen our perspective a bit.  God, the creator of all, is responsible for all the blessings we enjoy.  Life in this world was given to each of us as an undeserved, free gift.  We have unequal physical talents, features, and abilities, plus diverse spiritual and intellectual gifts as well.  They vary a lot from person to person, but what they all have in common is that they come as free gifts from God who didn’t have to create any of us.

This is the background necessary to fully understand a parable that at first shocks our sensibilities.  Matthew 20:1-16 records a story of an employer who hires workmen to harvest grapes.  He hires members of the crew at various times of the day, so that at the end of the day, some have only worked a few hours while others have worked all day long.  There’s grumbling when everyone is paid the same standard day’s wage, regardless of how long they worked. To add insult to injury, those who started last got paid first… “No fair!”

Wait a minute.  The master paid those who worked all day exactly what he promised them.  He just decided to be generous and pay everybody, even the latecomers, a full day’s wage.  Justice does not preclude generosity.

The Pharisees thought that they had always done the will of God and deserved more than the rest, especially the rabble Jesus appeared to favor – including tax collectors and sinners.  It roiled them to think that these Johnny-come-latelies would sit alongside them in the Kingdom of God.

Truth be told, neither they, nor any of us, are really like the folks who consistently did the will of the Master, working uninterruptedly at the assigned task.  Our assigned job is to love the Lord our God with ALL our heart, ALL our soul, and ALL of our strength (Deut 6:4-5) every day of our life.  This is only fair since we owe God absolutely everything.  But we’ve all unfairly walked off the job at various moments – thumbing our noses at him through our disobedience, pride, and selfishness.  Some have gone AWOL longer than others, and the sins of some are more spectacular than those of others.  But the bottom line is that, in terms of strict justice, God does not owe any of us anything except, perhaps, punishment.

But in his extraordinary generosity, the Lord has offered us a deal – if we will accept his beloved Son in faith as Savior and Lord, and through the power of the Spirit seek to do His will, and if we will repent each time we fail, he will give us what we do not deserve – friendship with Him here that opens out to eternal glory hereafter.  The first takers for this offer have typically been those most aware of their need for mercy.  And this is why the last have usually been first when it comes to the Kingdom of God.

Seems fair to me!


Acknowledgement

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources or info on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor as a reflection on the Mass readings 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A). It is reproduced here by permission of the author.

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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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