September 29, 2017: Entitlement or Grace
Today’s liturgy helps us to see that we can get caught into a silly trap as we journey in faith. We can think that we are entitled to God’s grace and favor and mercy and love because we have earned it. We have worked hard for a long time at being good and virtuous people.
I am reminded of a story of four adult children of multi-millionaires sitting before a judge. The older two children were contesting the will because they were 11 and 12 years older than their siblings. “We feel that since we were our father’s children longer, we ought to get a higher percentage of his estate.” The judge denied their case, pointing out that they all got very generous and equal share of their father’s wealth.
Similarly, today’s gospel parable has a landowner give the same pay to laborers in the vineyard whether they worked one hour or twelve hours in the hot sun. They are given what is just. They are treated as equals. The parable teaches us that we cannot transfer a sense of entitlement or merit in our workplaces onto the ways of God in the kingdom of heaven. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts.
None of us earns God’s mercy and compassionate love and salvation. These are God’s gracious gifts to bestow, not because we are entitled to them as a result of being good. But because God is God and this is how God is toward us. Have you ever resented the mercy shown others even when they don’t seem to “deserve” it? When have you been grateful for the graces and forgiveness God gives even when you don’t “deserve” it?