Ordinary Time 25, Year A
- The Lord is good to all and compassionate to every creature (Ps. 145:9)
All those Hispanic day laborers, I bet, who congregate at bus stops or parking lots of home improvement stores would love to have someone like the landowner of today’s gospel to come and hire them. The sooner and the more frequently such a contractor comes, the safer these laborers would feel, I think, for the less too would be the chance of any of them being pounced upon by raiding U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
And should every laborer, regardless of the time one started working, be paid the same agreed upon wage at the end of the day, I doubt it that anyone’s sense of fairness would be offended. Having experienced many a day without being hired by anyone, rather than take for granted the meager wage they are given, they show profound appreciation for it. Like Henri Nouwen’s poor people, these laborers too experience all the goods that come to them as God’s free gifts to be grateful for and celebrated. “Even the smallest and most necessary goods are a reason for gratitude” and a motive for celebration (as cited by Father Robert P. Maloney, C.M., on page 59 of The Way of Vincent de Paul [Brooklyn, NY: New City Press, 1992]).
Yes, these laborers, like all the poor of the Lord who are congregated or gathered together in Jesus’ name and in whose midst he is, understand and embody the parable about unmerited grace in today’s gospel (cf. Zeph. 3:12-16; Mt. 18:19-20). They do not grumble as would do those who treat God’s grace as his obligation to pay extra those who work harder and longer; these laborers, not subscribing to meritocracy only, distance themselves from those who despise “the showing of mercy because they feel it unfairly raises others to their own standing” . No, they do not begrudge anyone’s generosity since it reflects the overflowing generosity of God who understands that an hour’s fraction of a day’s wage will not sustain an individual, much less a family, and whose goodness gave rise to the goodness that all creation is (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).
And these poor laborers would surely rather see God’s mercy and generosity trump God’s justice. For otherwise, they realize, there would be no pardon and rehabilitation for one who turned unfaithful and became a harlot to every passer-by after being rescued, nurtured, bathed, anointed, clothed and lavished with extravagance by the Lord (cf. Ez. 16). Deeply conscious of their sinfulness and their falling very much short of the glory of God, of their not having any standing before the Lord should he mark their sins, these poor laborers wait for the Lord with the conviction that with him is the forgiveness that makes him worthy of reverence (Rom. 3:9-21; Ps. 130:3-4). Repenting of their sins and ready to accept penance for them, they would prefer to fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great, than fall into the hands of men (cf. 2 Sam. 24:14). They know that the scoundrel and the wicked can turn for mercy to the Lord, whose forgiving thoughts and ways are above human beings’ unbending “eye for an eye” or “tooth for a tooth” thoughts and ways. They agree with Ps. 103:10 and declare that the Lord has not dealt with them as their sins merit, nor requited them as their deeds deserve.
Moreover, these poor laborers surely celebrate the Lord’s overflowing goodness—in either an actual celebration of the Eucharist or in some virtual or spiritual celebration of it that only the church can supply by, among other things, I think, the power given it in Mt. 18:19-20 that says: “Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (cf. in regard to the lay origin of the Korean Church )—as they do in memory of Jesus what he did, namely, to die for undeserving sinners (cf. Rom. 5:7-8). In Jesus’ sacrifice of atonement, of course, is where God’s justice and mercy has embraced (cf. Rom. 3:25). To the extent that one celebrates God’s goodness and generosity at the Mass or when the Mass is ended, for such a one too, as it was for Paul the prisoner, life is Christ and death is gain. ICE raids, then, I think, will hardly matter.