The Generous Landowner – Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our first reading, from Isaiah 55, is a favourite with retreatants. Remember that they are seeking the Lord and his presence in their life. Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is still near. Isaiah goes on to stress the gap between God and the rest of us.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Beautiful words. God often has to offer that reminder throughout the Old and New Testaments. God is the creator and we are the creatures. We sometimes forget our place and think that we are in control. Yet someone or something – God, the cosmos, earthly forces, human forces – has greater dominance than I do. I could see myself as a victim, but the reality is that I always have a choice about how I respond to all that happens – the power of the earth, all that happens to my body or a pandemic.
And yet, despite the wide gap between us and God, the Psalm reminds us of the nearness of God to all who call. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Faraway yet close and near! What a mysterious God! Regardless of what tragedy or calamity befalls us, we always have recourse to God.
The Gospel account of the labourers and their wages brings up the question of fairness. For obvious reasons, the original labourers grumbled against the landowner. But the landowner reminded them that he is doing them no wrong.
Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous? He was generous, not mean. He never broke his promise to the labourers. We may prefer more fairness, but we can’t argue with his generosity.
I have many gifts and skills. So do you. So why do I feel a twinge of envy when I see the gifts of others? How can I grow in appreciation for what others have? I think that as I grow older, I find myself increasingly grateful for the skills of others.
Thank God they have them and can share them with me, with the world and with the Church. Thank God that I have certain gifts and can share them with others. Doesn’t that fit with so much of what we hear from Saint Paul and others?
The parable brings up the broader issue of labour. Matthew’s account paints a picture of a culture where people stood around waiting to be offered work for a day or a few hours. Most of us have more security and regularity in our work, even though many are still forced to live from pay cheque to pay cheque.
We know that the Gospel scenario still happens in some areas of the globe. That must produce anxiety – will I find enough paying work today to allow me to feed and house my family? Will the employer treat me with fairness and, even, kindness?
Let’s pray today that we may grow in gratitude the our many gifts and for the nearness of a loving and caring God.