Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014
Twenty-fifth Sunday in
Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a
Our daughter was not pleased the day she found out her dad had offered her brother a guitar if he got a B average on his report card.
He already had the guitar in hand by the time she learned of his good fortune.
"Huh! Reeeally?" she remarked in a voice loud enough to be sure her parents picked up her icy tone. Then she just tossed aside all subtlety and noted straightout to us that she'd never been offered a nice incentive for good grades.
We knew that as well as we knew she had never needed any outside motivation to achieve her academic potential. Brother did. The incentive actually helped him become a more diligent student. He also appreciated his father's generosity and still cherishes that first guitar.
But all his sister could see was that she never got an extra reward for her grades.
The parable in this week's Gospel asks the same rhetorical question my husband could have asked our daughter: "Are you envious because I am generous?"
Most people have difficulty with this parable. It runs counter to our human concept of justice, especially the commonly held value of "a day's pay for a day's work."
The landowner paid those who worked only an hour the same amount as those who had toiled a full day. He realized they needed to feed their families, too.
It would take several years' maturity before our daughter got over that guitar. But eventually she recognized occasions when she herself was the exclusive object of her father's generosity.
Then she understood that we provided for each of our children according to their unique abilities, interests, and challenges.
Jesus' parable reveals that God gives us not only what is just, but more -- what we need.
Isaiah explains this divine quality of generosity: "So high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts."
What does one say to the grumbling laborers or the pouty daughter? Isaiah says, "Seek the Lord . . . while he is near." That is, rather than being envious of another's reward, look to God in our own intimate relationship with him where his generosity is found in gifts unique to our needs.
This column is offered in cooperation with The North Texas Catholic of Fort Worth, Texas.