Homily 25th Sunday Ordinary Time – 24th September 2023
The Gospel reading today can be a puzzling one. It was for the people of Christ’s own time as well.
They had for centuries put their faith in a God who dealt with his people in a very precise and predictable way. A God who set down the terms of his relationship to his people in a very clear form, the terms of the law, a law that guaranteed in an almost measurable way, a reward for merit, and a punishment for sin. And that just and reliable God was pretty much the model the people were used to in their relationship with one another. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth was the ethic of the time.
And so, it was hard for them to understand the kind of person of whom Christ speaks in the Gospel when he describes the Master of the vineyard, a person so generous that he almost seems to offend our normal standards of justice. But yet, that is the picture, the model of God that Christ presents.
A picture of a God whose generosity, whose concern for our welfare does not depend strictly and precisely on what we do for him, but rather on what he wills to do for us.
And that maybe is one of the reasons why we have such a difficult time understanding the generosity of God. Simply because, so often, generosity is such a foreign thing in our own lives. This parable is disturbing to the kind of people who are constantly agonising over whether or not they are being treated fairly, whether or not they are getting everything they have got coming, whether it be money, recognition, power, acceptance. It is disturbing to the kind of people who constantly measure what they have and are against what others have and are, the kind of people who consider it an outrage, a tragedy, if someone else ever seems to come out ahead, get the better of them, take advantage of them, even just a little.
On the other hand, this parable is not in the least disturbing. It makes great sense to those who can say with St Paul in the second reading that to live means to toil for the sake of others. This parable makes great sense to those who realise that no other human being, what they have, what they are, can ever possibly be a valid yardstick to be used in measuring one’s own well-being.
It makes sense to those who are willing to give for more of themselves than what they feel others deserve simply because they know that that is what a Christian is called to do, and because they know that however great their own generosity, it will be fairly skimpy compared to that of God the Father.