Antonio P. Pueyo
September 18, 2005
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Reproduced with Permission

God's ways are not our ways, according to the first reading taken from Prophet Isaiah (55:9)). Indeed, God is outrageously generous.

This quality of God is very evident in the Gospel where Jesus tells the story of the landowner who hired workers for his vineyard. From a common sensical and very human viewpoint, the owner of the vineyard was guilty of unfair labor practice. The people he hired worked different hours, some working as early as 6 a.m. and others as late as 5 p.m. They were all paid the regular daily wage, equally. Of course those who have worked longer murmured against the owner. His comment to this reaction was "Why be envious because I am generous?" (Mt. 20:16)

This parable of the Lord shocks us out of our conventional thinking. The owner of the vineyard may have caused dissatisfaction among those who worked longer hours, but he also brought joyful surprise to those who worked later in the day. Instead of murmuring against the owner, couldn't those who have worked longer rejoice with their co-workers' good fortune?

Action starter: Do something outrageously loving.

This parable became a reality in Calvary. Jesus forgave the repentant thief. Literally he came in at the "eleventh hour", or as we say in basketball, in the last three seconds, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Lk. 22:42). And to him Jesus promised, "Today you will be with me in paradise" (v. 43).This is too much. Think about it. You can rage or you can rejoice over this. The first one to benefit of salvation, to gain entry into paradise since the time Adam and Eve were expelled, was not the gatekeeper Peter or any of the apostles, or the Blessed Mother. It was a thief.

Outrageous! God overturns our sense of justice. God's ways are not our ways.

But isn't this good news? This is good news for those who feel their lives have reached a dead end. This is good news for those who have reached bottom and think there is no more hope. This is good news for the desperate and those who feel they are on the brink of hell. This is good news for those who seek salvation. The thief was first in paradise because he was badly in need of salvation.

Our God is a generous God. We do not get what we deserve. Rather God gives us more than we deserve.

Given a glimpse of this mind-set of God, we can understand better why Jesus preferred the company of the poor, the sinners, the common folks, the outcasts. We can understand better the stories of Jesus about the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son, the Pharisee and the publican. Jesus came to save those badly in need of salvation.

Should't we also follow the ways of God? "Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate." (Lk. 6:16)

Jesus broke the barriers of conventional thinking through His story of the generous owner. When we act as God acts, we may have to go beyond our comfortable zone and our habitual responses.

These days some people seek recognition through outrageous behavior, whether it be in terms of clothes, hair style, or life style. If one has to act outrageously, let it be beyond these. Be outrageously compassionate and loving like God.