Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle A

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

rembrandt workers.jpg


Matthew 20: 1-16

"Why be envious because I am generous?"

Today's parable touches us sharply precisely because we identify with the grumbling workers. Instinctively we feel with them: “That's not fair”. For them, so-called ‘fairness’ demands treating people differently, to each according to his merits. This parable challenges us to turn our accepted perceptions upside down. Yet, even after repeated attempts to explain the parable, we still have a lingering suspicion that there is some injustice here, and that those who worked longest do indeed have a legitimate grievance. In other words, we still find it hard to understand that God's ways are not our ways.

The grumblers here, just like the elder brother of the prodigal son, (and perhaps just like us?), find it desperately hard to grasp the sheer graciousness of God in all his dealings with us. This parable illustrates how the generosity of God transcends normal human standards. No one can stake a claim on God. Everything in our relationship with God rests upon his grace; everything we receive, we receive as a free gift of his mercy. We can never say that we have earned our salvation, or anything from God. He does not treat us according to what we deserve, but according only to his love.

And here, Jesus gives an insight into that reckless love of God which is expressed in giving without any calculation. This is not a parable about labour relations or management, or about fairness. It’s a story about God, a God whose mercy and goodness challenge us, a God who treats each one of us as a person of infinite worth, a God whose love and kindness is utterly undeserved. For our part, the only fitting response is that of grateful receiving and of allowing ourselves to be transformed by his love.