God’s love is way beyond one’s imagination.
Most of the time, the meaning enshrined in the sentence above consoles us.
Conversely, when we are not on the receiving end of His love, it gives us something to complain about.
Such was the action of the characters in Jesus’ Parable in this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 20:1-16).
The Word in other words
Jesus narrates that a landowner goes out at the break of dawn to employ workers for his vineyard. He gets a group at 6 AM, agrees to pay them the usual daily wage and then sendds them to work right away.
At 9 AM, he gets another group. At 12 NN, he recruits again another team, and then at 3 PM, another one.
By 5 PM, he realizes that there is still something to be done in his vineyard and thus, finds still more laborers who are willing and able to work.
As was their custom, the last group can only do as much. The sun was about to set and before the day ends, the landowner instructs his staff to pay the amount he promised to those whom he recruited at 6 AM starting with those who were recruited last at 5 PM.
One dinar was the amount given to the last batch of workers. This was the same amount given to those who worked at 3 PM, 12 NN, 9 AM and 6 AM.
The Kingdom of God, Jesus illustrates, is likened to this.
Clearly, most of use will find some issues against the landowner. Yes, he gave all groups an equal amount as a compensation for their work, but not all of them worked for the same number of hours. And one could further: It is not a joke to work under the smoldering sun for nearly 12 hours to be paid with an amount that is also given to those who worked only for less than hour.
This was the cry of those who were called to work at the first hour. They had worked the longest, and they expected to be compensated more than those who did not work as much as they did.
We could offer our sympathy: “It is not fair; it is not just.” But the Prophet Isaiah reminds us in the first reading that God’s “thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” (55:8).
We realize that if the landowner follows what the actual practice is, those who worked for only an hour will be able to bring home practically nothing.
Jesus is teaching us that His brand of justice goes beyond offering someone due to that person. And thus, it is beyond recognizable to the sensitivity of an ordinary person who is trained to be fair only if everybody plays a fair game, to treat people with respect only if he is given the respect, and to show kindness to others only if he becomes a beneficiary of it first.
Jesus leads us to that narrow path of loving even if it is unconceivable to do so; no ifs, no buts, no conditions.
Jesus shows us to do away with how the world calculates, sizes up, measures.
Jesus offers His love; this is His brand of justice.
This is what surprising about His genus of generosity.