25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The gospel this 25th Sunday relates about envious people in the parable, the workers who were hired in the morning complained and protested that they were paid the same wage as those hired in the afternoon. “A gross injustice,” they said.
Legally, there was no injustice because the deal was covered by a personal contract. All workers agreed a wage of one denarius.
(I) There is an important lesson here about God’s justice. When seen from our often mathematical and narrow-minded viewpoint, it often looks like injustice. We tend to think that if a person can do more, he is a better person, and should have a greater reward. Why, for example, is there such a disparity between the income of a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, and a bus driver? Which of these, in fact, really does more? Is this really just?
(II) We even think that if we do more for God, he will somehow love us more and reward us more than others. That is very much at the background of today’s parable. For many of us, the workers were quite right to criticize their employer. They worked longer hours and should have got more money. But we need to realize that there is another way of looking at the situation. This is not just about justice but God’s love, generosity and compassion.
Like the early workers in the parable, we may be tempted to complain of the good fortune of others who care nothing about God while we work hard, trying to be good but are lagging behind.
(III) Compete only against yourself and not with others, but then learn to celebrate the success of other people. And if you are successful, do not let success get into your head. Neither should you allow the envious to ruin your day. Do the best you can do but not only in terms of skills but more so in terms of character and attitude… and always remember that God has blessed you with success but you should learn to handle it responsibly.
A person is truly great when he is not envious of his rival’s success. If God wants to be overly generous with some people, that is his business. In the gospel, the employer, signifying God, says, “I am free to do as I please, am I not?”
And don’t forget, STOP ENVYING THE MAN WHO HAS EVERYTHING, THAT MAN PROBABLY HAS
CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE … which fortunately you don’t have!
How many times is seventy times seven?
Peter speaks for each one of us in today's Gospel passage when he says, "How many times am I supposed to forgive the neighbor who keeps sinning? After seven times, if he still sins, what's the point in forgiving him again?"
"No, not seven times," Jesus says, "seventy times seven,"which according to my Father's calculator in heaven, is infinite.
The name 70x7 is synonymous with God's eternal forgiveness. Matthew 18:21-22 reads: Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."
Jesus isn't telling us to forgive our brothers 490 times, or 70 times, or 77 times. He's telling us we should always forgive our brothers when they have sinned against us. God in heaven has forgiven us all of humanity's sins. How wrong it would be for us to deny our brothers and sisters a similar forgiveness for much lesser matters. Back in the book of Matthew (18:23-35), Jesus tells a parable to emphasize this point.
Why do we find it so hard to forgive others even though it is the only way to gain God’s forgiveness? I think it is because we fail to appreciate and celebrate our own forgiveness. Like the unforgiving servant in the parable, we focus on the 100 denarii that our neighbor owes us rather than the 1000 talents we owe to God which He has graciously cancelled.
We would rather only forgive people if they "go and sin no more." But waiting for their repentance is harmful to us. When we choose to pray "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing," we break the chains of anger that bind us to what they did. We're no longer a victim of the incident that hurt us. The wounds of our heart and spirit are healed, because we receive directly from Jesus the love that was supposed to come from those who sinned against us.
Forgiveness, like love, is a decision, not a feeling. It begins with an honest prayer: "Father, I don't want to forgive them, but I choose to forgive them. I ask You to forgive them, too. And please forgive me for holding onto my resentment, anger or bitterness." Did you realize you're already praying this whenever you recite the "Our Father." Jesus taught us to pray, "Father, forgive us as we forgive others." He did NOT add, "Unless, of course, they don't want to stop sinning." Let us pray for deeper appreciation of God’s loving mercy so that we can forgive others, too.
23A Fraternal Correction
Ez 33:7-9/ Ps 95:1-2. 6-7. 8-9
Rom 13: 8-10
Mt. 18: 15-20
Two lessons are being presented in today's gospel:
1) It is about conversion—by giving the one who offended us a chance to repent without publicly destroying his/her name.
2) Jesus condemns all destructive gossip.
One day, a young man approached a monk and told the monk that he had engaged in gossiping. To teach him a lesson about the permanent damage that gossip can cause others, the monk sent the young man to the bridge over the river and bring along with him a pillow. He was instructed that once he on the bridge the young man should cut open the pillow and shake out its feathers. Upon returning, the monk sent back the young man to collect the feathers. "But that's impossible", the young man replied. "By now they have flown in every direction. I could never get them back." "Exactly", said the monk. Your gossip is the same. Once released it can never be retrieved.
One of the most common defects of people (male/female, single/married, young/old) is the persistent habit of discussing another's fault with everyone else, except with the person at fault. Some people seem to take pleasure at another person's wrongdoing because it gives them something to talk about and perhaps, it is a way to cover up their own wrong doings. It is even said that the faults we find most repugnant in others are precisely the ones that plague our own lives.
The most damaging consequence of such a human behavior is when a wrongdoing is falsely attributed to an innocent person.
If a neighbor has wronged us in some way, Jesus wants us to give that neighbor a chance to recognize his/her wrongdoing and make a change. Instead of destroying his name and reputation, Jesus teaches us today to be compassionate as our heavenly father is compassionate to our own wrongdoings. Go to your erring brother and with charity point out to him something in his conduct which is not proper for a Christian. We cannot remain indifferent nor tolerate the wrongdoings of others. Fraternal correction is most often the most neglected duty. Try to ask yourselves when was the last time that you have corrected an erring brother, a friend or a member of the family, or a confrere in a religious community? Is it not that most often we do not have the courage to approach an erring brother and tell him of his faults. We would rather comment behind our brother's back on his wrongdoings.
One more important point - if you are not willing to accept correction from others, then never attempt to correct others. Fraternal correction is a two-way street. I am willing to correct other out of charity and I too am willing to be corrected.
Fraternal correction is always possible if we are willing to understand with humility and compassion the shortcomings of others. Jesus never condemned sinners, he never talked behind their backs about their sins. He always gave them chances to repent—a way to build people, and not to destroy them!