Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Isaiah 55:6-9; Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18 (18a)
Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a; Matthew 20:1-16a
Recently I facilitated a small group zoom faith-sharing session on this Sunday’s readings. After asking the participants to spend some time with the gospel, I asked for their reactions to the story. Certainly, it was no surprise that each person’s response was an emphatic “not fair,” “not right,”—their sympathies aligned with those who labored for eight full hours, yet received the same pay as the recent arrivals.
As one participant noted, the group’s responses were very human. These were primal reactions from the gut uttered in response to that which disturbs personal senses of fairness. We see these types of responses so prevalent around us today. We see it when, in light of phased pandemic/safety restrictions, there is evidence of restlessness among some whose gut reactions tweet and shout out that we are being cheated out of our comfortable routines and lives. We see it come to play in politics when a get-even mentality becomes employed. We see it in unbridled anger that rises up from repeated abuses over the course of history. The gut does not lie about the primal feelings we hold inside of us.
While the gospel parable stirs these emotions within us, as it all parables, it does not validate our short-sighted surface reactions as acceptable. Instead, the parable offers an opposing challenge. Jesus asks us to look beyond what we consider unfair to see the generosity and justice of God. While for some, this “seeing” may be a far-reaching stretch, the first reading can help us spell it out more clearly: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord…” Jesus’ challenge is not just an eye-opening challenge; it is a heart-opening challenge to embrace and participate in the generosity and justice of God’s ways.
When we see with and react with the heart, our definition of “fairness” evolves into a demand for “justice” and moves us toward the radical rightness of God’s ways. Participating in bringing about God’s justice is not driven by our primal gut reactions, but instead is driven by the gospel mandate. This mandate expands our vision and drives our advocacy to go beyond the surface structures that bind us and raise the individual and collective rights of all people to the forefront. It calls us to truly see and attend to those who suffer, who seek forgiveness, who seek hope, and who seek to live without fear. It calls us to embrace Jesus’ vision that “last will be first, and the first will be last.”
As we listen to the readings proclaimed this Sunday, may we recommit ourselves to becoming the generosity and justice of God for all of our sisters and brothers.
Sr. BarbaraAnn Sgro, OP