From the Archives of Fr. Metzler’s Homilies: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Generous With God’s Gifts

Isaiah 55:6-11   Philippians 1:20-30    Matthew 20:1-16

The theme of the Gospel today is generosity – the generosity of the Lord who is hiring all. Jesus is painting a picture for us of a man who obviously isn’t hiring people because of what they can do for him, but because of what he can do for them.

Scripture scholars tell us that this Gospel was a warning to the Christians of Jewish ancestry. It is presenting a picture of the equal value between Jewish and Gentile believers. The gentiles enter the church later than the Jews but get equal treatment.

Old timers in the Church will have to admit to a tendency to think that we have some special standing with God that “newbies” do not have. It’s as if they believe there is a long period of building up seniority. The longer the seniority, the better is our standing with God. But it is not so, says Jesus.

You’ve heard of companies where the pecking order is measured by the nearness of the employees’ parking spaces to the front door. When someone leaves the company, other employees are begging for their parking space even if it is only three spaces closer to the door. We have an innate need to measure our place. We want to progressively be moving up from the cubicle, to a real office, to the office with a window, to the office on the corner, to the office nearest to the president’s. Leave people alone and they will come up with their own pecking order.

Johnny Carson tells a story about the time when, as the host of the Tonight Show, he made a joke about there being a toilet paper shortage in the city. The next day there really was a shortage because all the viewers who had watched his show ran out afterward and bought up extra toilet paper just in case. There was no trust in the fact that people, if they chose to work together, could ration out the toilet paper to make sure there would be enough for everyone. People panicked and grabbed not what they needed, but more than they needed, leaving others with nothing at all.

Heaven consists of a heartfelt desire for the good of others rather than our own good. If you are motivated primarily by a need to provide for yourself you won’t be very comfortable in “heaven”.

Be thankful you don’t get what you deserve. Yet, God is more generous to us than we deserve.

God is being merciful, not fair, and this parable is what mercy looks like. Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more!   “It is simply a fact that people regularly understand and appreciate God’s grace as applied to themselves, but they fear and resent seeing it applied to others. Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions is grace. Grace is always amazing grace.

Jesus himself is the best parable of the extravagantly generous God. He makes far too much wine at the wedding at Cana; far too much bread for the hungry crowd; he tells a story about forgiving a debt far too large ever to be paid; and he tells us to forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven. And as the ultimate revelation of extravagant affection, he willingly gives up his life for us on a cross.

At communion, we are given a little bit of bread and just a sip of wine…our hungers are so deep. Yet in a strange new math, just that little bread and one sip is enough to feed us forever

The good news of the gospel is that we share the extravagantly generous Spirit of Jesus. Sometimes we too can act with extravagant generosity, beyond the rational rules of justice. God’s kingdom is meant to be a new order of grace. Isn’t there always something unexpected and wonderful about a gift of love, even a kind word? A gift is never earned in the way that a wage is earned, and expected.   (W. Metzler)


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