The WORD in other words (2023) by Fr Abrahan Borja SVD – Taiwan
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – A
“Love looks through a telescope; envy through a microscope.” – Josh Billings
In today’s parable, the ultimate question raised by the landowner, representing God, to the early hires, “Are you envious because I am generous?” evokes two contrasting realities: The envious people and the generous God.
The envious people. The first hires operate with the work and wages formula – the amount of wage should be proportional to the work done. These calculative minds look at the details meticulously and, more often, in a selfish and negative way. Such an approach creates a chain of unbecoming attitudes like false expectations and a strong desire to acquire more than the others; disregarding an agreement; complaining to the point of accusing someone of injustice; and trumpeting one’s accomplishments.
Moreover, the first hires could not rejoice at the reward of the last hires nor appreciate the goodness shown by the landowner. Why? Because their attention is focused on material things given to others and not on the persons who received something. The interest in the goods rather than persons blocks any little act of kindness and charity towards the less fortunate. Material-oriented first hires fail to be considerate of the needs of the last hires.
The generous God. The charitable act of the landowner, i.e., the “God who is generous” (Isa 55:7), is demonstrated in many ways. He goes out untiringly to reach out to different groups. He does the hiring personally instead of delegating the task to someone else. He searches diligently to find those seemingly rejected by others (“no one has hired us”). He engages in conversation with people and understands their situations. He invites everyone and brings in as many people as possible into his vineyard. In giving rewards, he does not care much about the time spent in work nor the result of the work; rather, he cares much about the person who did the work. With a compassionate heart, he gives lavishly to the disadvantaged. The generous landowner gives his all – himself, time, and space.
The parable challenges us to overcome the calculative minds of envious people and learn to become more like the compassionate and generous landowner. In the words of St. Paul: “to conduct [ourselves] in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27). In this way, the kingdom of God becomes truly alive among us, and God is praised. St John Chrysostom advised: “Would you like to see God glorified by you? Then rejoice in your brother’s progress, and you will immediately give glory to God. Because his servant could conquer envy by rejoicing in the merits of others, God will be praised” (CCC, no. 2540).