Generous and Forgiving

09-20-2020Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian

There are many themes in this weekend’s scripture and one of them is that life does not work out equally for everyone. Life is not distributed to everyone in equal parts at the same time. We are all proud believers in egalitarianism for one and all, yet we know that in many ways life rolls ours differently for each person. There is in life some randomness if badness that is not the result of malfeasance or sin takes place. And more importantly, there is some randomness of goodness in our lives that we cannot justify or explain. It is very difficult in life to sort through the many complaints people have. We are biased by our personal histories and so is the complainer. We tend to remember our negatives and nurse them along in our lives and often miss seeing or valuing the many good things that we have. We often carry resentments and grudges quite tightly to our hearts and very rarely carry gratitude and appreciation in the same way. The larger theme of this weekend is how we see life.

This weekend our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah focuses on how our God is merciful and also just. Even though the Jews in exile in Babylon did not live the way of the Covenant and the Law as they should have, God did not abandon them. Even though their ways and thoughts were not the ways and thoughts of God, he continued to call them back to return to him.

We discover in the Gospel that God’s loving generosity is made very clear in the parable when Jesus suggested that it is all right, even admirable, for a vineyard owner to pay some of his workers generously. Our Gospel story makes us look inward and discover what it is that makes the other apostles and ourselves jealous of the workers who did little and got paid the same amount. We do expect our God, like the vineyard owner, to be near, loving, generous, and also to pardon us. We find these expectations as right and reasonable for us, but we do not really think these gifts of God should freely apply to others who have done less. Did not the workers in the Gospel mumble in the complaint that the last workers did not show up until almost quitting time and that, “It’s not fair that they receive the same amount of money as the workers who came early.” I think all of us have been like these complainers, measurers, and judgers of others. What is the most important, obvious point of this parable is that it is not at all about people getting more than they deserve but rather about God’s generosity. This is quite the revelation and insight for many of us!

This Gospel passage is to remind us that in our lives God always continues to be generous to us no matter what we do or say. In many ways, we also are being asked to become more generous and loving to others, even when they do not deserve it. We are to try to measure up to God's ways, not bring his ways down to our smaller and lower level. Being more generous or forgiving is never a sin, but being ungiving or unforgiving may well be a sin. God continues to be generous to us. Ours is a loving, forgiving God who is quietly involved in our lives and he asks the same of us towards others in our lives.