The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XXV-A, 24 September 2017
Isaiah 55:6-9//Philippians 1:20-24,27//Matthew 20:1-16
There is no doubt we have a very generous God. We all attest to this from the silence of our hearts to the choral shouts of “Amen” every Sunday in almost every church down to the religious messages we tirelessly forward daily in social media. As an expression of God’s generosity to us, Jesus taught us two Sundays ago to exercise love and charity in keeping the unity of our community when some members go astray. Then last Sunday He underscored the need to forgive as the best expression of that love among brothers and sisters in a community. Everything now comes to the fore on this third consecutive Sunday when Jesus narrated to us His parable of the landowner: are we generous like God our Father?
“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’”(Mt.20:1-7)
More than the parable of the sower where God’s generosity overflows in His daily sowing of the seed, the parable of the landowner reveals Jesus coming to us round the clock from dawn to before sundown to send us to His vineyard, to ensure that we are never left out from the Father’s blessings. Truly, God is a Father Who sees us as His children worthy of love and forgiveness, of every blessing regardless of what we have achieved or failed in life, of how long we have been faithful to Him or have strayed from Him. We are His beloved children He would always want to be gathered together as one in Him even at the nick of time.
Unfortunately we humans always misinterpret God’s generosity when we feel we are blessed because we deserve it by our own merits. We look more into our achievements, status and qualities, even bragging these with everyone resulting into a feeling of entitlement in the family, in the society, in school, in work and even in the Church. Check on most groups and organization including the Church where the main operating system is always “seniority” that disregards other qualifications. With all due respect to our seniors, it is disheartening and even irritating at times when all they claim in life is their being older, being the first ones, the veterans and most senior. It is not enough to be old; what is virtuous is ageing gracefully or “tumanda ng may pinagkatandaan.” When being senior leads to claims of being privileged, of being above others, and therefore more entitled to everything, then it is against unity in the community. This was the contention of those hired earlier, demanding higher wages because they worked longer having been called first. Never mind the quality or kind of their work because for them it was the time spent in the vineyard that matters most.
What is sinister here is their total disregard for others, blinded with many benefits they felt they deserved after working first and longer, grumbling when those who worked late received the same amount of wage with them! Remember this is a parable not a treatise on labor and wages to show us that inasmuch as God is generous to everyone, we in turn must also be generous with others. Moreover, we must rejoice when others are also blessed like us. Let us not forget that whatever grace we receive is always from the goodness of God not due to our own merits. Fact is, we deserve nothing from God. How dare we brag whatever goodness and kindness we have done or could offer?!
Likewise, see how those who worked late were paid first: the parable tells us something about their attitude in eagerly going to work immediately even if the landowner had not told them the pay they would receive. They were willing to lose everything just to have a little job they desperately needed. They have that wonderful disposition to love and serve regardless of anything. Those hired earlier seem to be more after the money and other perks than with the job at the vineyard, a problem among us manifested in our preoccupation with positions and status we call “amor propio.” No wonder, many of us act even higher than God and the saints! Perhaps this explains also the reasons behind these vicious circles of poverty and inequality in the country because whenever those from below get the chance to rise in the corporate ladder or social strata, they refuse to look back to their origins to remedy the situation. They would rather bask into their success and enjoy selfishly all the perks, feeling so entitled and deserving in a process we call social mobility.
St. Paul is telling us in the second reading that we are mere instruments of God, the true doer of everything. We are all Christ’s and we must “conduct ourselves in a way worthy of the gospel.” (Phil.1:27) Reviewing the lessons of the past three Sundays on the essence of the Church, we are encouraged today to seek God’s wisdom, His “thoughts and ways” (Is.55: 8) that would enable us to see everyone as brothers and sisters, not as rivals and competitors. Let love and charity be our only motives in correcting those going astray so as to preserve our unity (Sept.10) as a Church, community, and family that are places of mercy of forgiveness (Sept.17). May we keep in our minds and hearts that God is so good and generous to us all, that there is no room for jealousy and envy among us, that no one can claim any entitlement because we are all undeserving yet beloved in Christ Jesus. A blessed Sunday and generous week to you!
Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II,
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista,
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan