To understand Christ’s words and actions in the Gospel, we often must understand the Old Testament. Christ knew it intimately and his words and actions that are recorded in the Gospel are never random or impulsive. Rather they refer to and complete the words and actions of the prophets and the whole of the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament Israel was described as the vine of God. It was God who planted it, watered it and God intended this vine to bear fruit. But Israel failed to yield good fruits and the Lord allowed His vineyard, Israel’s kingdom, to be overrun by conquerors (see Psalm 80:9-20).
But God promised that one day He would replant His vineyard and its shoots would blossom to the ends of the earth (see Amos 9:15; Hosea 14:5-10).
This is the backdrop to Jesus’ parable..in today’s Gospel. The landowner is God. The vineyard is the kingdom. The workers hired at dawn are the Israelites, to whom He first offered His covenant. Those hired later in the day are the Gentiles, the non-Israelites, who, until the coming of Christ, were strangers to the covenants of promise (see Ephesians 2:11-13).
In the Lord’s great generosity, the same wages, the same blessings promised to the first-called, the Israelites, will be paid to those called last, the rest of the nations. (cf Dr Scott Hahn)
There is grumbling at the generosity of the landowner. Indeed, God’s generosity, His never-ending love, kindness and mercy, doesn’t make sense to our human reckoning.
We should rejoice that it doesn’t because we benefit from this never-failing mercy and compassion. This endless charity springs from the holiness of God. He is completely and utterly different from us; not just different but transcendent, beyond us.
This holiness we especially call to mind in the Sanctus, the Holy, Holy of the Mass. Then, with all the countless hosts of angels we fall down in adoration and worship of this awesome God.
From this holiness, God calls us to change and to become like Him. Today we ponder the likeness to God that is found in generosity.
Holiness and Generosity
In the saints we see women and men who have become holy by their lives on this earth and they now share in the unutterable holiness of God in heaven. Quite often in the saints we see remarkable examples of generosity.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was an eloquent example of this.
When she visited the many convents that she had founded, even though she was the Superior General of the Order, she had a habit of getting up early on the last day of her visit (early being 4:00am or so), and washing the convent’s bathrooms before the rest of the nuns woke up.
Fr Sebastian Vahakala, a priest connected to her Order, explains how he learned [a lesson in] Christian generosity from her:
“One day I was working at the home for the dying in Kalighat, Calcutta. The ambulance brought in a man. I looked at him and recognized him straightaway, as he had been to our home several times.
So I told Blessed Teresa that there was no sense in taking him in again, as he would go out when he might feel a little better. He was taking advantage of their generosity.
Blessed Teresa looked at me and said: ‘Brother Sebastian, does this man need your help now or not? It does not matter that he was here yesterday, or that he is going to come back again tomorrow. We do not have yesterday any more, nor do we have tomorrow yet; all that we have is today to love God and serve the poor.'”
That’s just one glimpse of the kind of supernatural generosity that can operate in the human heart. (Source: epriest.com)
Can the same happen to our hearts? Yes, it can, because this supernatural generosity comes from grace and our cooperation with it; not just from our good efforts or resolutions. However, the grace of God works with our good resolutions.
Let me suggest two ways in which we can grow in supernatural generosity.
Some times we act first from a sense of our rights; what is owed to us or what we believe we can expect of others. If we seek in moments like those to view our responsibilities, especially our obligations to serve others, we open the channels of grace through our selfless intentions.
At other times, we grumble and become envious when another is successful or more fortunate that we are. On these occasions we can rejoice in the victories and accomplishments of others seeing them as these occasions to give glory to God.
The Mass, you know, is the perfect prayer because it is Christ’s prayer of offering to God the Father. So there is no better place than here to open our hearts to the working of grace because the Author of all grace is present.
If we receive the Author of all grace in Holy Communion, he will come to change our hearts, if we ask Him to. He will take away our dry, self-centred hearts and make them into a rich, fruitful and watered place where His generosity finds a home.