Homily for the Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2020
Tiempo de lectura aprox: 2 minutos, 15 segundos
Entitled to God’s Kingdom?
Today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 20:1-16 may come across as offensive to our sense of justice. Why would the landowner pay the last comers the same rate as the first comers? Does the landowner know how tedious the day’s work was for the first comers? What the last comers did cannot be compared with the first comers. They did not suffer the biting heat of the sun. They do not deserve the just wage. The landowner has no sense of justice. He is simply unfair.
We can go on with our assessment of the landowner’s unfairness. We can condemn him and rightly so. But can we see how everything is about how we feel, think and perceive the landowner? We have not taken the trouble to see things from the landowner’s point of view. Does our attitude towards the landowner tell us anything about us? Perhaps, these are the questions Jesus is provoking. He wants us to look at ourselves, to see how entitled we can feel.
In the proximate context of today’s Gospel (Matthew 19:27), Matthew wrote, ‘Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?’ In other words, Peter was asking for his entitlement and those of other apostles who have been with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry. Come to think of it, it is a fair demand to make. These men left everything and followed Christ; they are rightfully entitled to some special favours.
But Jesus in His grand reversal approach to the kingdom of heaven turned everything upside down. He turned the entitlement culture of Peter and his fellow apostles upside down by pointing them to the generosity of God. Notice how Jesus opened the parable by saying ‘The kingdom of heaven is like the landowner…’ He is calling Peter, and indeed all of us to begin to look at the kingdom of heaven from the landowner’s point of view, which is well captured in Psalm 145:9 – ‘The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that He has made.’
The Psalmist presents God here as the Father who loves all His children. He does not love only the strong, the hard-working lot, the eloquent speakers, the talented singers and those who do everything right. He loves all. He loves the rejects of society, those society has deliberately ignored and refused to hire just as much as He loves those society accepts and honours. He loves the broken as much as He loves the healthy. He is simply good to all His creation.
That seems to be Matthew’s point in today’s Gospel. For him, the Lord has no favourites, no elite group, no inner circle that deserves God’s kingdom and its reward more than others. In fact, the landowner, ‘God’, as N. T. Wright puts it, ‘is out in the marketplace, looking for the people everybody else tried to ignore, welcoming them on the same terms, surprising them (and everybody else) with His generous grace.’ Thus, no one is entitled to God’s kingdom.
However, we are all invited to come and be gainfully employed in God’s kingdom. This invitation is God’s gracious gift to all of us. It is meant to bring us all together as God’s children, to foster what Julius Nyerere, the Tanzanian Anthropologist describes as Ubuntu – ‘I am because we are.’ That is to say, we are fully ourselves when we define ourselves in relation to others. It is only by so doing that we will not be envious of God’s generosity towards others.
Emma lived out today’s Gospel. She was a great choir member. She attended Sunday Mass regularly. She kept the Church’s teaching on abstaining from sex before marriage. But many of her friends who could not care less about God or Church’s teaching were all married, she was not. At first, she felt envious of them and was very angry with God. However, all that changed when she stopped seeing herself as entitled to God’s reward. It was only then that she could rejoice with her married friends and share in their joy as if it were hers.
Fr Francis Afu