It’s Not Fair!

The following is a true story.

A campus pastor was teaching a college course on the life and teachings of Jesus. As the date for the final exam approached, the class spent several hours reviewing the material. Some students requested extra individualized time with the pastor. Other students met in peer study groups, cramming for the test. One student, realizing she had to be gone the day of the exam, arranged for a make-up exam, only to be told that the make-up test would be much more difficult.

The day of the exam arrived; students sleepily filed into the room, obviously tired from a night of little sleep and lots of study. The campus pastor walked in, looking very serious. “Before we begin, I would like to read a passage from the Gospel of Matthew.” The parable of the laborers in the vineyard was read. The pastor closed the Bible and said, “This reading says that it’s all a gift – it’s all grace. So you’ve all made an A on your exam, and you’re free to go.”

The students sat, stunned, for a moment; and then something unexpected began to happen. A murmur arose from the class – a murmur of discontent. “You mean we studied all this time for nothing, and those who didn’t study or even show up today get an A too? You’ve got to be kidding! It’s just not fair!” [Living Liturgy 2012]

Our whole working lives are based on an agreement that offers fair wage—we do something in order to get something. In the world of work there is no such thing as a free lunch.

It’s no wonder we struggle with God’s grace. Without counting the cost, God continues to give unmerited love. There is something inherently unfair in the whole idea of grace. Is it fair that, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”? Is it fair that the gift is for all of us, active members, and also for those of us who may be inactive members or seekers?

It’s just not fair, this grace upon grace. It’s just not fair, and thank God it’s not!

Adapted from Renew International Prayer Time Cycle A

The Kingdom Of Heaven Is Like….

vineyard3Imagine those first comers, the ones who had worked hard all day in the severe heat, saying, “Isn’t it fantastic that the landowner gave the men who came late a full day’s pay? We were concerned that they wouldn’t have enough for their families’ needs. We realize that some of them are no-hopers but we can go home happy and content now because we all have enough for our needs.” Who on earth would think like that? Saints – and isn’t that what we are called to be.
Imagine how our society would operate if the genuine good of all was the true guiding principle for the way we treated all, especially the marginalised. Imagine:
If we truly sought the rehabilitation of prisoners and the real protection of society, we wouldn’t talk in terms ‘paying a debt to society’ or of ‘punishment’ but rather of being rehabilitated to live well in society…then if violent offenders didn’t choose to be rehabilitated then they choose not to live in society.
If we truly sought to give the disabled a meaningful involvement in the community, then we would offer work they could do even if it meant we had to be patient and adapt to their needs. Yes, you did read that right, we adapt to their needs and stop expecting them to live up to our abilities.

If we truly saw the need of asylum seekers to be integrated members of society, then we would endeavor to bring them into our local community with the offer of work.
It is no easy task being laborers in God’s vineyard! Emptying ourselves of our own wishes and desires, our own focus on our way of doing things. To be faithful, we must immerse ourselves in God’s thoughts and ways.  We are to put others first, to forgive with no strings attached.
Yes, I admit the above sounds idealistic but this is our calling as Christians. We are the recipients of the largesse of a generous God and God seriously expects us to be God-like in our generosity. St Catherine of Siena said “You have only truly received a gift from God when you have given it away.”

Two Fish, Five Loaves of Bread and Five Thousand for Dinner

Recently, there was a news item of strawberry farmers destroying good plants rather than picking the strawberries for market. It was cheaper to let the berries go to waste than to pick them. There was a public outcry, and rightly so.

Weekly, I receive pamphlets of malnourished, starving citizens which demand a response from me.  I know there is food in abundance and that our starving sisters and brothers across the globe are victims of political action. And
I  know that world citizens are starving for more than just food.

Our readings today make it clear that we are to give of our very selves in feeding others. We are called to give the gift that keeps on giving-our very self for the life of others.  As Jesus is God’s nourishment through his self gift, we too, are to be God’s abundant nourishment for others. Perhaps what is amazing about this Gospel is that God willingly chooses us to make known his blessing.

This feast celebrates the superabundance of God’s graciousness to us.  We are invited to share that superabundance. The challenge of our Gospel is for us to be Eucharist for one another, to be attentive to the needs of others. The challenge is to make visible that divine generosity.