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The Difference Between God

The Difference Between God's Generosity and Ours - Family Reflection Video

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Many good Christians may find today's gospel shocking because it might look like it presents an unjust and unfair image of God. Reading the parable for the first time, we might conclude that God is suggesting unfair labor practices.

If Jesus were telling the parable for the first time in today’s media, most likely people would demonstrate in the streets, phones would ring off the hooks, and from every union hall, and workers would be carrying picket signs. They would be protesting the unfairness of paying people who worked for only one hour same as those who worked all day!

The latecomers in this parable aren't loafers. They're laborers who need a job. The fact that they're still waiting in the marketplace at 5 pm shows how badly they need work. In Jesus' time, if a man didn't find work today, his family often didn’t eat tomorrow. A man who found work early in the morning, rejoiced all day, and so did his family. A man who found work later also rejoiced and his family rejoiced too because his family could eat something that day.

Had the early workers not learned the employer paid the latecomers a full wage, they would have gone home joyful. As it was, they went home angry. Although all of the workers had agreed to work for a certain amount, the workers who came early felt that the late comers should have been paid less than they.

However, this story looks different when read from the perspective of the Jewish readers for whom Matthew was writing. The Jewish converts to Christianity were probably envious that the Gentiles who converted late were put on equal standing with the Jews in the early Church. Many Gentiles accepted into the community probably had come from pagan religions. While they may have lived sinful lives, they could still enjoy the community's privileges after repenting and being baptized. It did not seem fair.

Anyone and everyone can come to God. And whether they come early or late, whether they are laity, specially consecrated, or clergy, they can achieve holiness if they follow their vocation faithfully.

Today’s Gospel takes away the sense of gradation in when and from where we come to God, regardless of how others feel. God has agreed to accept all who repent and reward them with eternal life. In today's Gospel, this message is heartening to even those outside the institutional Church.

Membership in the kingdom of God is available to all, even at the eleventh hour. One may be as fortunate as the thief on Jesus' right side, who repented as he was dying. Jesus responds to faith with love and assures us we will be with him in paradise.

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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.

Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.