25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

EXPECTATIONS

By Louella D’Souza

“God will not open the doors of heaven to everyone, only Christians will be saved.” A few years ago, a friend and I started to have a cordial discussion about the parable of ‘The Prodigal Son’. As we exchanged views, it quickly escalated into a heated argument where the above pronouncement was uttered. Today’s gospel helps shed some light on this statement.

Unfortunately, my friend is not the only one who shares this view as is evident in today’s gospel. The laborers in the vineyard who had worked all day long expected that they would receive more in comparison to the laborers who showed up at the end of the day. They were offended, even resentful when their expectations were not met because they felt they deserved more than the others.

That seems like a natural expectation and we often fall prey to the same line of thought. We equate our efforts to what we believe we deserve. But I wonder if our definition of ‘deserving’ is merely a matter of fairness. It may often be tied, from a purely negative connotation, to a level of entitlement. Perhaps we are not always indignant because we think we deserve more than the other, perhaps we are often more indignant because we feel that we are entitled to more. And this entitlement leads to frustration when we see the mercy and grace of God being applied to the ‘undeserving’ others.

But we fail to understand some key aspects here. All the laborers were approached and asked to serve, some earlier than the others. The gospel clearly states that the laborers who came in earlier were specified a wage and the ones who came in later on in the day were not promised a specified wage. But even though they were not promised a specified wage, they trusted the landowner to give them a fair wage and their trust was rewarded.

So it is we need to understand that God is indeed the just and graceful God as promised to us by Jesus. God’s kingdom is open to whosoever recognizes what was under their noses all along – that what we are called to do is simply respond and receive God’s call, and the gates of heaven will be opened.