|Reading 1||Response||Reading 2||Gospel|
|Is 55:6-9||Ps 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18||Phil 1:20c-24, 27a||Mt 20:1-16a|
God’s abundant generosity and our response
During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings ask us to think about God’s generosity to us and others.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah tells us that God’s mercy motivates all to “seek the Lord.” “God’s ways” remain a mystery to humans. God’s mercy, generosity, and kindness cannot be understood by humans. Jesus brings out this idea in greater detail in today’s parable.
In the second reading, Paul writes to the Philippi ekklesia while he is in prison in Ephesus in 56 AD. His imprisonment probably causes him to reflect on his own life and death. Whether he lives or dies, Paul will magnify Christ through his own body. He urges the Philippians also to “live lives worth of Christ’s gospel.”
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells a parable about a generous house-master. Not all the workers agree with the owner’s actions:
- The conflict. The first-hired workers believe the owner should compensate them more than their agreed-on full-day wage. Their argument ignores the “fair wage” agreement they made in concert with the owner, and they insist the owner is shaming them by making them equal to the eleventh-hour workers.
- The resolution. The owner replies that he is acting neither unjustly nor dishonorably. He reminds the workers that they and he agreed together on the fair wage at the start of the day.
- The owner’s question. The parable ends abruptly with the owner asking the first-hired workers: Are you envious because I am generous? In the Greek text, the owner says these workers have the “evil eye.” The Semitic idiom evil eye describes someone who is envious, holds a grudge, is mean-spirited, or ungenerous (see Deut 15:9; Pv 28:22; Sir 14:8; Mt 6:23). Because the last-hired workers receive an unearned and undeserved gift from the owner, the first-hired workers are offended. They see the owner’s unwarranted generosity as an injustice–“we should get more than them!”
The owner points out that the injustice lies with the murmuring workers’ envy. Envy–being angry at another’s good fortune–is from the devil (Wis 2:24). Jesus’ parable asks his hearers to decide if the owner is fair or generous, or both, or neither. That is, the hearers must examine their own reaction to the owner’s choice.
Today’s readings present RCIA participants and the believing community with a thought problem. Isaiah tells us that God’s ways are not our ways. Jesus’ parable shows us that the kingdom is about God’s abundant generosity. Wouldn’t life be great if we all worked for a generous owner? Yet we are filled with righteous indignation and complain about God’s goodness to others. We want God to be generous with others, but more generous with us. We fear God’s abundant generosity because we can’t understand it. Are we afraid there’s not enough for everyone? Can we let go of our envy of those to whom God is generous? Can we recognize the unearned and undeserved gifts that God has given us?