Wednesday of Week 20 in Ordinary Time
Why be envious because I am generous?
One of the most compelling documentaries I have ever watched, College Behind Bars, offers a glimpse into the lives of prisoners who are also college students. Under the Bard Prison Initiative, a select number of prisoners are taught a rigorous liberal arts curriculum by faculty from Bard College, a private institution in New York. Naturally, programmes of this sort have come under criticism as many feel that it is not fair that criminals earn a college degree for free, while a large proportion of college students outside of prison are saddled with debt. Furthermore, there is a prevailing sentiment that the convicts should be punished rather than rewarded by a gift of education that they do not deserve. These short-sighted perspectives have failed to consider how education is the best form of rehabilitation for the incarcerated. When their minds are challenged and developed in the right direction, their entire selves will be renewed and transformed.
The parable in today’s gospel is about a landowner who hired several workers for his vineyard. Workers who started the labour first and worked longer hours received the same wages as those who started work later. This generous act by the landowner gave rise to immediate protests of unjust treatment from the first group of workers. From a human perspective, it certainly does not seem fair. Wages are typically given in proportion to the number of hours spent. But God’s grace does not work in this manner. His grace is given freely, equally and abundantly to all who respond to His call, no matter how ‘late’ they may be.
From the time I began life as a working adult, I would hear friends lamenting about how they have accomplished very little in comparison with so-and-so. Career advancement, wealth accumulation, marriage and family, material possessions…other people were always doing better. Such comparisons can easily lead to resentment and negativity towards another. In the gospel reading, the envy of the first group of workers towards the second was masked by their allegation of injustice, which was not valid as they were paid their due according to their initial agreement with the landowner. But they were dissatisfied with what they were given, and wanted more.
Discontentment with God can only lead one away from Him. Instead of doubting God, let us make the daily choice to trust in His generosity and faithfulness.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)
Prayer: We pray for a deeper awareness and appreciation of God’s hand at work in our lives. May we not be so distracted by unimportant things that we forget His goodness and faithfulness.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for God’s non-discriminatory and ever-loving attitude towards us.