25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Sunday, September 24, 2017
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

     From a young age on, we come to know who we are by making comparisons with others.  I think of my four brothers.  Steve was the smartest.  Bill was the best athlete.  I was, and still am, the best looking!  Throughout our lives, we compare grade point averages, how much money we make, and our family situations.  While this is normal to do, today's Gospel tells us that there is a danger in making comparisons on how God works in our lives.

     This Gospel makes lots of us mad.  No matter if people work hard the whole day, or just for an hour at the end, all get paid the same.  We think this is not fair, and we are correct, it is not fair.  That is why the first reading from Isaiah is used to set up the Gospel, when the Lord says to us, "Your ways are not my ways, and your thoughts are not my thoughts."

     The key to understanding the Gospel comes at the end of the parable:  "Are you envious because I am generous?"  This parable is not about money, it is about who God really is.  And his generosity is so outrageous that is seems unfair to us.

     The author Jeff Cavins, in speaking of today's Gospel, makes a distinction between jealousy and envy, although they often overlap.  Jealousy is when we say, "I want what you have."  Envy is more like, "I resent God's blessing in your life, because you don't deserve it.  In fact, I subtly wish God was not so good to you."  Envy is what is going on in the Gospel.

     As human beings, we tend to think in terms of merit, that you get what you deserve.  But God's ways are not our ways, because he thinks in terms of grace, in terms of undeserved, unmerited, pure gift.

     If we struggle with envy or jealousy, I think the best antidote to this is gratitude.  Gratitude focuses on who we are and what we have, not who others are or what they have.  Sometimes in our prayer dialogue with the Lord, he says to me, and maybe to you too:  "You are thinking about and talking about other people a lot Jon, and how you want me to change them so you can be happy.  But this is not about them.  I'm speaking just with you.  This is between you and me alone."  When we drop our comparisons, it is easier to shift into gratitude.  And focusing on gratitude is the first step to being happy in life.

     I think this parable speaks not only of who God is, but who we must become.  Our best response is not to question God's justice, but to imitate his generosity, to go beyond our merit based thinking and embrace God's way of grace and undeserved mercy.  When we realize that this is what the Lord has done for us, then it frees us to be able to do this for others.

     Today's Gospel cautions us not to compare ourselves with others.  Or if we insist on making comparisons, do the only one that really matters:  What have we done with what has been given to us.

     If we are honest, this Gospel makes lots of us a bit angry.  If so, this means we have room to grow in our understanding of who God is.  Jesus came to bring us good news, which is better news than many of us think it should be.