September 26, 2017
The parable we have just heard raises some critical questions both for believers as well as those who are questioning faith and trying to find out who God really is. There are other parables along similar lines with this one that are equally as hard to fathom. Take for example the parable of the prodigal son. The critical question today is: What do we do with those who went out to work at dawn, the one’s who worked so hard, who bore the heavy burdens of the day’s work and then received the same wage as the last group who only had an hour’s work? Or what do we do with the elder son who had to watch the prodigal son get the big feast even though he had stayed at home, remaining in his father’s house while following all the rules? The questions raised are manifold. Doesn’t this knock the pins out from under morality? Why should we observe all the rules of morality if God is going to forgive everybody anyway? Another question raised is about justice. Is there no justice in God’s ways if everybody, saint and sinner alike, get the same reward at the end of their lives?
In attempting to answer the questions raised by these parables the first thing we must do is put behind us all feelings of jealously, envy, and self-pity, along with sort of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” mentality. Also we must set aside all standards of human justice. The justice of God is not the justice of man. Our ways are not God’s ways. Our God is the God who justifies sinners, people just like us. God is not like the blindfolded woman holding a sword in one hand and a set of scales in the other.
Having then put down the measuring scales of human justice, what do we then do in addressing the questions raised in the parables? Many resort to the economic approach and devise a system whereby we think we can earn God’s favor. This approach counsels us to toil and labor in such a way that if we work hard enough God will be obliged to give us His love because we have earned it. He cannot deny us, we think, because through a hard fought life we claim we have earned it and therefore deserve it. Again, however, God will thwart us and tell us that as high as the heavens are above the earth so to His ways are above our ways. No one of us can earn God’s love just as no one of us can earn the love of another human being. Love is neither the subject of justice nor of economics. There is no price tag on it… it cannot be bought, just as it cannot be sold. When it comes to the earning theory we all get the same wage; the one who went to work in the first hour of the day receives the same wage as the one who went to work in the last hour of the day. The prodigal son and the elder son who stayed at home share equally in their father’s love and their father’s goods.
Far from being cheated, far from being denied justice, far from being defrauded of your wages, you, the sons and daughters of God, whether you yourselves are the prodigals, or whether you have been the faithful ones who stayed at home and worked hard in your Father’s vineyard, you the little ones, the one’s with little fame and no renown, you are the hidden power and glory of Christ. For you are the signs of contradiction, you are the hidden Christ tucked deep down within the guts of all that is human. You are God’s salt, God’s seed, and God’s productive toil for the salvation of those who are lost but nevertheless destined, just as you are, to share in His limitless and measureless Love.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Sojan Punakkattu