Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Homily for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

“It’s just not fair!” How often we hear these words! When I was teaching, I heard my share of this particular complaint. My parents, too, heard plenty from my siblings and me about fairness. I’m amazed that as children we ever had enough food, clothing, or shelter with conditions so “unfair”. It’s just not fair.

The workers hired earliest in the morning make that complaint in today’s Gospel. “It’s not fair,” they grumble to the owner of the vineyard; “You’re making those who were hired at the eleventh hour the same as us, we who bore the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” The landowner replies gently, reminding them that they had agreed on the denarius for the day – the daily wage – and that he is free to do what he wants with his money, and to be generous if he so chooses.

When viewed from the perspective of those hired at dawn, the meaning of the story can be quite challenging. Why is God so harsh with those who agreed for their wage and worked all day long? Couldn’t He be generous to them as well?

“My ways are not your ways,” says the Lord through the prophet Isaiah; “My thoughts are not your thoughts,” He reminds us. And should we not rather be immensely grateful for this truth? Why do we suspect that we are the ones doing all the work and being treated unfairly? Pride. Pride obscures God’s mercy at every turn.

St. Augustine offers two possibilities for the meaning of the laborers hired at different times: he suggests that the different ages of salvation history – Abraham, Jacob, Moses, King David, etc. – can be likened to the hours of the day; or those ages in our life – those who are cradle Catholics, to those who enjoy deathbed conversions – can also be seen in this way.

Either image gives us the point: God is merciful. Thank goodness that he is generous to those who only work for an hour; praise God for His generosity and mercy! When we examine our souls, we realize that none of us is capable of fulfilling the demands of the Law. Not one of us is capable of bearing the burden of the day and the scorching heat. But God in His love offers us salvation nevertheless.

It is Christ, rather, who bears the burden of the Cross for our souls; Christ bears the heat of the day from upon the Cross, earning not a paltry sum of coins, but the precious treasure of eternal life. We could work all day long – and even into the night – and never labor enough to save one soul.

We must instead allow God to break the pride that captivates our lives and prevents us from humbly asking Him for salvation – and being grateful for that gift.

Concretely, we grow in humility by experiencing God’s mercy, particularly in the Sacrament of Penance, but also through daily prayer, encountering His generous heart in the Scriptures. It can seem “artificial,” but specific prayer times every day are essential to developing the context in which God can help transform our hearts and minds. “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call him while He is near.” He is near to us each day, but we must be willing to toil in the vineyard of prayer, at least for thirty minutes. We have to do this on days when we feel like it, and days we don’t; times we feel refreshed, and times we’re drained. Examination of conscience in the evenings is also an essential practice, but that’s another homily for another day.

Today, and throughout this week, wrestle with this Gospel about the hired workers. With whom do you identify? The laborers hired early in the morning? Those hired at the end of the day? Seek insight from the Spirit to begin to apply its meaning in your life and to your family.

When we allow God to transform our thoughts and soften our hearts, then will we be able to love as He loves, because we will love with His Heart. And then we won’t grumble – whatever our reward – because we will be able to receive with pure hearts, entering in to His rest for all eternity.