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A Fair and Generous God: Homily Notes – Twenty-Fifth Sunday, Year A

Posted by frmac on September 9, 2008

You’ve more than likely used the saying: “An honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.” It reflects the universal human belief in fairness and honesty, and its underlying theme is that a person should receive what is honestly and fairly owed to them. If this doesn’t happen, one feels unfairly treated and short changed. This is why those that worked all day in this Sunday’s Gospel felt so unhappy. If a person had worked only one hour had received a full days pay, then, they reasoned they should receive much more for a full days work. They felt they had earned it by putting in so much more work, but Jesus made it quite clear that their reasoning was wrong.

Here is a little story that might help us understand what Jesus really meant by this parable:

A nurse escorted a tired, anxious young man to the bed side of an elderly man. “Your son is here,” she whispered to the patient. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient’s eyes opened. He was heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack and he dimly saw the young man standing outside the oxygen tent.
He reached out his hand and the young man tightly wrapped his fingers around it, squeezing a message of encouragement. The nurse brought a chair next to the bedside. All through the night the young man sat holding the old mans hand, and offering gentle words of hope. The dying man said nothing as he held tightly to his son.
As dawn approached, the patient died. The young man placed on the bed the lifeless hand he had been holding, and then he went to notify the nurse.
While the nurse did what was necessary, the young man waited. When she had finished her task, the nurse began to say words of sympathy to the young man.
But he interrupted her. “Who was that man?” He asked.
The startled nurse replied, “I thought he was your father.”
“No, he was not my father,” he answered. “I never saw him before in my life.”
“Then why didn’t you say something when I took you to him?” asked the nurse.
He replied, “I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn’t here. When I realized he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, I knew how much he needed me…” (Anonymous author)

This story is especially inspiring because the young man did not even know the dying man. We are inspired by the compassion and generosity of the human spirit of this young man. He owed this man nothing, but he held his hand and comforted him all night until the elderly man died.

In the Parable we hear this Sunday, the landowner, responds to a human situation with the same compassion and generosity. He does not promise those that worked only part of a day a designated wage, as he did the labourers at the beginning of the day. He just invites them to work in his vineyard. Compassionately sensing their poverty and suffering, and their worries and fears about not being able to feed their families, he generously gives the partial day labourers the full day’s wage. They had not done a full day’s work, but knowing they still had to feed their families, the landowner made sure they had the money to do it by paying them for the full day.

The parable reminds us that God is infinitely merciful and compassionate. God is more than fair. God is generous! 

As we celebrate Mass this Sunday let us remember that all that we have, even our life, is a gift from God. Let us give thanks for God’s generosity to us, especially, for the gift of salvation. Let us also pray for compassionate and generous hearts and minds so that we too can reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christian Love.

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