Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1:20-24.27; Matthew 20:1-16
Last week the Gospel laid bare for us the roots of forgiveness. We discovered that it is difficult and, most often, impossible, for us to forgive others when we haven’t yet appreciated how much we ourselves have been forgiven.This week the Gospel is about goodness, about generosity. We discover that it is difficult to be generous to others when we haven’t yet appreciated how much we ourselves have been given.
Last week, the servant who was forgiven a huge debt could not find it in himself to forgive his brother servant a small debt. Somehow he had missed the experience of being forgiven which is where we learn to forgive others.
Let me recall these two Gospels a bit more to mind because it is easy to forget.
This week the servant who was given a full day’s work and a full wage is jealous of his brother because he has missed the experience of being generously treated himself. It is from the knowledge of generosity bestowed upon us that we learn to be generous with others.
We can be like those servants who worked hard all day - and we have - we have laboured hard. All those Masses we’ve offered - our Reconciliations - our prayers - our donations to the needy - our forgiveness of those who hurt us - our faithfulness in marriage - sacrifices for the kids. We have been faithful and we have laboured hard.
Trouble is, bit by bit, we can come to believe we deserve more than others. When God is generous to the sinner, especially one who has hurt us, we can come to resent it. Deathbed repentance is not always popular with us Christians. We resent his generosity to others because we fail to see his generosity towards ourselves.So we envy others - their popularity, good looks, intelligence, possessions, their partners in marriage, their fame - and we say: 'How come they got all that? How come God seems to have given them more than me? Surely I deserve more?'
OK, so why is it that in the 1st Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass we pray: Do not consider what we truly deserve … ? In other words: Do not give me what I truly deserve ….
On the one hand 'Surely I deserve more'; on the other hand, 'Do not give me what I truly deserve.'
What’s going on here?
Surely I deserve more! The fact is, however hard we’ve worked, we have really done nothing more than our duty and all that we have received is pure gift; we have deserved none of it.
Joshua 24:13 reminds us: I gave you a land where you never toiled, you live in towns you never built; you eat now from vineyards and olivegroves you never planted. We would do well, as a matter of fact, to thank God for the great gifts he has given us which enable us to serve him in the first place!
Do not give me what I truly deserve! The true Christian can see what he truly deserves and asks God not to give it to him, so let’s not ask God for justice or we’re all 'gonners'. Let’s ask for mercy, forgiveness and generosity and then let’s be merciful, forgiving and generous to others.
At the end of last week I mentioned that if you have a problem forgiving, pray for the gift of forgiveness, and make an inventory of all that God, and others, have had to forgive you for.
At the end of this week I advise that if you suffer from jealousy, make an inventory of everything God, and others, have given you, and you will find it much easier to be generous with others.