XXV Ordinary Sunday
God has his plan and his logic for each of us
Mt 20, 1-16
This Sunday we have to meditate on a well-known and profound parable, the parable about the payment of workers.
The parable presents as the protagonist a landowner with the capacity to hire a large number of workers. He is not a gentleman but a working man. At dawn he is already up, in the town square, hiring for the usual wage of the time: a denarius. And three more times, at 9 in the morning, at 12, even at 5 in the afternoon, he returns from the countryside to the village in search of more labor.
So far so good. A wealthy owner, concerned about his farm, attentive all day to make the most of it. A more positive and social aspect is also sensed: he is concerned about unemployment, that there are people who end the day with nothing to take home.
But this very dignified character behaves in the end in a disconcerting way. In the evening, when it's time to pay, he orders the manager to start with the last, not the first. When those, surprised, receive a denarius for a single hour of work, the others, especially those at 6 in the morning, encourage the hope of receiving a much higher salary. Much to their indignation, they receive the same. It is logical that they protest.
Why didn't the owner start with the former, let them go, and then pay the others a denarius without anyone knowing? Why did you want to provoke the protest? Because without the scandal and the indignation we would not realize the teaching of the parable.
The day laborers of the first hour raise the problem at the level of justice. Instead, the landlord poses it at the level of goodness. He has not committed any injustice, he has paid what was agreed. If he pays the same to those of the last hour, it is out of kindness, because he knows that they need the denarius to live, although many of them are lazy and irresponsible.
Who are the 6 in the morning and the 5 in the afternoon? In the community of Saint Matthew, made up of Christians from Judaism and the pagan world, preaching that God was going to reward some equally as others could raise blisters. The Jew felt superior on a religious level: his commitment to God went back centuries before, to Moses; He bore the seal of the covenant on his flesh, circumcision; he had carried out the commands and decrees of the Lord; they had not missed a synagogue on a Saturday. How could they pay the same to these newly converted pagans, who had spent much of their lives without caring about God or their neighbor? Using a few words from the prophet Daniel, how were they going to shine in the future sky just like them? In this approach, the reproach made by the owner (God) is understood: their problem is not justice but envy, it bothers them that I am good.
Twenty centuries have passed since the time of Saint Matthew; The previous interpretation is no longer current and we can replace it with another: Christians who have fulfilled God's will since childhood, have not missed Mass on a Sunday, collaborate in the parish, help in Caritas, have taken a number of courses and graduates, they learn that God is going to compensate them as well as people who only enter the church for funerals and weddings, and who interpret the moral of the Church as it suits them. To some of them it may seem like a great injustice. God does not see it that way, because he plans to reward them as they deserve. If it gives the same to others, it is not for justice, but for goodness.
Is it not a matter of hypocrites to be indignant? We should ask ourselves whether it is hypocritical or foolish to have such an attitude. Deep down, the person who is outraged is because he thinks that he has been working since 6 in the morning, that he has done everything well and deserves a greater reward from God. If we take a closer look at our lives, you may notice that many of us have actually started work at 11 in the morning, and that many times we have sat down to rest when we thought that the foreman was not seeing him. A good listener few words.
On the other hand, the one who is aware of having achieved little in his life, of not having behaved in many moments as he should, of having started working at 5 in the afternoon, will feel encouraged by this parable.
There is a danger of interpreting the above as "God is very good and we can dedicate ourselves to the great life." The invitation to go to work at 5 in the afternoon, even if it is only an hour, is a wake-up call. It is not about continuing to wander irresponsibly. There is always time to help the owner of the farm.
This is the subject of the 1st reading, taken from Isaiah 55,6-9, which uses much harsher language. He does not speak of the unemployed but of the wicked and criminals. But he exhorts them to return to the Lord, who "will have mercy" because "he is rich in forgiveness." In the Gospel, with strong contrast, those who go in search of God are not evil and criminals; It is God himself who comes out to meet, four times a day, all the people who need his help.
Both the Gospel and Isaiah agree in affirming, each in his own way, that God's plans and ways are very different and higher than ours.
To say something about the 2nd reading that, like last Sunday, the second reading has no relation to the Gospel, but a lot to the current reality of the coronavirus. Saint Paul is in jail, and he doesn't know if he will be acquitted or sentenced to death. For us, the choice would be clear: acquittal. Saint Paul sees things differently: absolution would allow him to continue working for his Christians and for the spread of the Gospel; but death would allow him "to be with Christ, who is by far the best." In this alternative, you don't know what to choose.
They will absolve him, and he will continue his work a few more years, until death allows him to be with Christ. At this time when death is only spoken of as a cold statistic or personal and family tragedy, Paul reminds us Christians that death is the step to eternally enjoy the company of the Lord.
+Faustino Armendáriz Jiménez
OMCC Ecclesiastical Advisor