Here is a sobering fact: if God were to treat us with justice, we would all be wiped out, erased off the face of the earth in an instant.
If you, Lord, mark iniquities, Lord who can stand? (Psalm 130)
Today we are all invited to rejoice that God is not just with us in a distributive sense but, rather, he is “just” in his divine way. Any of our sins, however small, is an offense against God who is infinite. Hence, it calls for infinite punishment. If God were to apply distributive justice, we would all be mercilessly condemned.
Our Gospel passage (Matthew 20:1-16) for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time proves clearly that God is “just” according to the biblical sense of justice. For the Bible, a thing or a person are just if they act and deliver according to their proper nature. Now, since God is infinite mercy and infinite love, he is just whenever he acts with infinite mercy and infinite love.
If we struggle to make ends meet in our family or if we are empathetic with those who live hand to mouth and have trouble meeting their basic needs before the next paycheck, here in Michigan or in poor countries across the world, we would be open to appreciate God’s justice, i.e., his infinite love and mercy. We would feel the distress of those that were called to work later in the day, and especially those that, an hour before quitting time, were still in agony, wondering if they could have fed their families the following day.
Along with this call to embrace God’s brand of justice, and to adopt his ways, there is an invitation to value anything good we enjoy as an unmerited gift from the Father for which we should feel constant, heartfelt gratitude. It is time for us to realize that nearly all of us have been called to work in the Lord’s vineyard from the first hour.
Today, we are invited to see if we consider this call at the first hour as a privilege or a burden. Those who have little, do not waste anything. They take good care of what they have and find other uses for stuff that the affluent discard without a second thought. Recent converts and those who have newly established a beautiful, personal rapport with Jesus Christ, show on the outside tangible enthusiasm and joy. They are like those hired much later in the day to work in the Lord’s vineyard. We cradle Catholics, we of the first hour, run the risk of showing diminishing appreciation for what we have received from the Lord with the privilege of having known him the longest. Whenever we grumble for the trials of life, we forget the comfort of his Word proclaimed, spoken, and explained to us as often as we gathered for the Eucharistic Celebration.
We overlook the precious consolation and uplifting experience of his forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We owe him for the silent yet efficacious work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, for the incomparable Gift of himself in Holy Communion, for the reassuring insights and inexplicable bursts of joy welling up in our hearts from time to time, for the opportunity of resting in him whenever we spend time in contemplation, for benefiting so frequently from the prayers and the good deeds of the Blessed Mother, the Saints, and people of goodwill, for enjoying the vitality and holiness of the Church, for the closeness, support, encouragement, and favors that God’s people give us in times of struggle, and for the light and guidance provided us by those whom the Lord has appointed our shepherds.
Today, maybe at home or in another quiet place, we might want to carve out a little time for reflection and, after going over the list of favors we have available in the Church from the first hour, where we place ourselves within the two extremes of grumbling and immense gratitude for the privilege of divine adoption.
Are we often bored? Dissatisfied? Resenting God’s laws and his Church’s guidelines? Do we feel frustrated? Are we passive observers and critics standing on the sidelines of active discipleship? Or aloof and indifferent?
Hopefully, we are fired up, daring, courageous and eager to share Jesus and his Gospel with those we see are saddened, disheartened, and groping in the dark.
Optimistically, we face the inevitable challenges and the trials of life with serenity and trust in the power of our God. At whatever point on the spectrum of emotions (from grumbling to immense gratitude) as disciples of Christ and adopted children of God we might find ourselves; we should receive a heavenly jolt of grace from the following solid, unalterable fact: He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? (Romans 8:32)
Reenergized by this fact, we shall continue to labor in the Lord’s vineyard with inner motivation borne of appreciation and gratitude for the privilege bestowed on us. We shall continue to work until the Lord calls us to receive the heavenly reward he ardently desires to give to every single one of us in spite of our less than good performance.