Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Gospel we read this weekend presents us with the confounding generosity of God, who gives freely of his love, mercy, and grace, whether we have earned it or not. In the parable of the workers in the vineyard, some work from the start of the work day, while others are hired only for the last hour. Yet all are paid the same. Those who began work earlier are upset that those who worked less are being paid the same as them. In their jealousy of those who are receiving the same as them, they lose sight of the fact that they are being paid exactly what they agreed to, and what, a few hours earlier, they had been perfectly content to see as just. The lesson here is that God looks on us and desires to generously pour out his grace upon us, whether we have earned it or not. We are entitled to nothing, yet our good God, in his generosity, confounds and goes beyond our logic that we might learn what it means to give wholeheartedly and without reserve.
We are very often like the servants who began the day early. We want what is our due. In this, we seek justice, which is perfectly reasonable. We err, however, when we begin to look at everyone else and compare ourselves, our situation, our salary, our possessions, our rewards, to those of others. That is when entitlement creeps in – our minds and hearts turn to wanting more, believing that we are entitled to more. And so we become cranky consumers, complaining when things don’t go our way, with no sincere thought about others.
Jesus challenges us in this Gospel to be different. Rather than complaining that others have received what is good, we should be content that we have done what is necessary. When we feel entitled, we should be very cautious! Entitlement in our hearts can lead to vicious snobbery, division among family and neighbors, and resentment. So let’s catch ourselves. When I feel entitled, I should ask myself, “What have I done to deserve any reward? What am I willing to give in imitation of the generosity and love of God?” The owner of the vineyard in the parable Jesus tells is generous – we too should seek to live this generosity!
The Stewardship Model can be helpful in answering this question. What am I willing to give of my time, talent, and treasure? The truth is that it is easy to write a check, but giving of our treasure is just one (important and appreciated!!!) form of generosity. Do I place my skills at the service of others? Am I willing to use my expertise and talent to benefit someone other than myself? In parish life, perhaps the most important form that generosity takes is time. There is always a need for hands (skilled or unskilled!). St. Teresa of Calcutta, when offered money for her missions, would often tell people to keep their money and immediately ask them to come and work alongside her instead. Time is a great treasure!
And so, God who is abundantly generous, calls on us to be generous, too. We are to imitate this good vineyard owner, offering ourselves without counting the cost. Instead of comparing our compensation to what others receive, let’s look at what we can give. If we seek to be generous stewards, we will grumble less and smile more, we will no longer feel resentment but rather compassion, we will experience decreased separation from God and increased union with the Heart of Christ who gives to the utmost without counting the cost.