Today’s Gospel account is one that calls for deep reflection. Many people think that Jesus’ story is both unjust and unfair. However, the story is not about injustice, because no injustice is done in it.
The story is not about justice either, though it goes out of its way to state that justice is done. Justice is a great thing and it is stressed over and over again in the Scriptures. But Jesus’ story is not about justice.
What the story is about is generosity. “Are you envious because I am generous?” Those are the key words to unlock the meaning of the parable. The parable is about generosity, but not ordinary generosity. It is about a generosity unlike anything we have ever known or experienced.
The 11th hour workers were not lazy people who didn’t want to work. They were people no respectable employer would hire, the left-overs or rejects. The idea that any employer would take these people on at the eleventh hour, and pay them a full day’s wage, was unthinkable. Yet this is exactly what the owner of the vineyard did. This is the strong point of the parable.
Jesus wasn’t speaking of human generosity but about God’s generosity. As we heard in the First Reading today, God’s ways are not our ways, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. God’s generosity utterly transcends human generosity.
The parable was aimed at the Pharisees because they were critical of Jesus’ reaching out to sinners, the outcasts, those on the margins of society. In the parable, Jesus showed them what God is like: God is generous and full of compassion for the poor and the outcast.
God deals with us in ways that are extremely different from the ways we normally deal with one another. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high is God’s generosity above our generosity. The goodness of God gives us great comfort but is also a great challenge because we are called to imitate it, to make our ways of dealing with others more like God’s ways of dealing with us.
A conversion is necessary before we can begin to act like God. Not an intellectual conversion, but a conversion of the heart.
One person who greatly understood this was St. Pope John XXIII, who earned the nickname of “Good Pope John.” He has been called a genius of the heart for he was known for his generosity, his largeness of heart. We also see this reflected in Pope Francis as he imitates Jesus in reaching out to others and tending to their needs.
Faith is about a relationship of love with God who first loved us. Once God has touched our hearts, and warmed them with his love, we will begin to love in return. And then we will truly know what God is like. God is love.
— Fr. Dennis, Sept. 24, 2017