September 24, 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Daily Readings: 1st Reading: Isaiah 55:6–9; 2nd Reading: Philippians 1:20c–24, 27a;
Gospel: Matthew 20:1–16
Fairness is a virtue we hold dear. We don't want to be treated unfairly. We expect employers to be fair. This means paying workers what they legally deserve for the amount of work they have done and the time they have put into it.
But what if the employer pays an employee more than they deserve, even if they have not worked as much as you did? Would it be unfair and unjust?
The parable in today's gospel is indeed perplexing. Those who were hired at the last hour were paid the same wage as those who were hired earlier. This seemed unfair and unjust. The owner of the vineyard reminded those who complained about it that he was not unjust to those who worked the whole day since they were paid the equivalent of a day's wage as they agreed.
He could not be faulted for being generous to those who were hired last. Perhaps he knew that paying them the equivalent of an hour's wage wouldn't be enough to feed their hungry family. Being fair or just would not be enough.
The Gospel does not really prescribe how employers should run their businesses. It is a reminder of what God's redeeming love is all about. It is unconditional. It is purely gratuitous. It is totally undeserved. It does not depend on our efforts. It does not depend on how long we have lived and labored in his vineyard.
As the first reading declares, God's ways are not human ways. God is generous with His love and grace. This is what the kingdom of God is all about. Jesus was teaching the Jews, who considered themselves the chosen people, that God’s redeeming and generous love is directed not just to them but also to the Gentiles who would later become part of God’s people. They were not being treated unfairly. They should not be envious of God’s generosity and mercy.
This is how love and care should be. Yes, we should be just and fair. But we should go beyond that. We should be compassionate, kind, and generous to others, especially to those who work for us and with us and to those who are in need.
This should especially apply to employers. There are many who are so engrossed in making profits that they don’t even give employees the minimum wage and benefits required by law. With inflation and the rising cost of living, even the minimum wage is not enough.
The popes since Leo XIII up to Pope Francis have been advocating for just and living wages that would allow workers and their families to live a decent life. It is a scandal that owners and CEOs arrogate to themselves the billions that they profited from while the workers who have contributed to the increase of their wealth continue to wallow in misery and poverty.
What is required is both justice and generosity. This means giving to workers what is due to them as well as profit-sharing. Unless they do this, they do not have a place in the kingdom of God.
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.