Readings; Isaiah 55: 6-9; Psalm 145, R. The Lord is near to all who call upon him.; Philippians 1:20C-24, 27A; Gospel—Matthew 20: 1-16A
This Sunday we have another Parable of the Kingdom. It is a timely Gospel for us to reflect on to be able to discern what characteristics we aspire for in the communities we can build as we overcome the pandemic and adjust to the “new normal.”
Chris Lowney, in his 2003 book, “Heroic Leadership,” cites the environment of care in which generations of Jesuits were formed and which provided opportunities for them to develop their full human potential. This accounted for much of the remarkable achievements of the order through its close to 500-year history.
This is the kind of environment we would like to build, an environment that establishes God’s kingdom in our communities that will empower members to enjoy “life to the full.”
The parable gives us guidelines for this. The most obvious characteristic of such a community is generosity. This is explicitly stated by the landowner at the end. Here we note that the passage states, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner . . . ”
The qualities of the landowner can be attributed to the kingdom or the community we can build. It is a generous community that shares with and provides its members with the support and resources they need to live a better life.
The generosity that we want as a characteristic of this community is vividly captured by the synonym of generosity which is magnanimity, from magna and anima—the great spirit, the greatness of spirit.
It’s the greatness of spirit of the landowner, the kingdom itself, God himself, which will awaken and nurture a greatness of spirit in the members of the community.
This is Jesus’ proclamation, “ . . . just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20: 28) and “ . . . I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10: 10)
Generosity, to be genuine, must be empowering; becoming both the source and the outcome of the empowering act.
The second characteristic of this community is gratitude. This is stated as an antidote to the reaction of the laborers who were the early hires. Perhaps their reaction could be considered as a sense of entitlement.
Entitlement is the absence and the opposite of gratitude. From it we see negativities arising, envy and the inability to celebrate the success or joys of others. It erodes the sense of solidarity in community.
Gratitude, on the other hand, opens us to a multitude of graces: celebration of blessings given to us, as well as to others; freedom from envy and from a sense of entitlement; a healthy attachment to material resources knowing they are gifts; and ultimately the freedom to dedicate our self to God.
Imagine a community, a society with these characteristics, generosity and gratitude. Is it a utopian dream? No, because it is God’s plan.
This is the final characteristic of this community. As Jesus ends the passage, “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” It affirms the revolution that this kingdom will bring when it comes.
The same revolution sung by the Blessed Mother in her Magnificat, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1: 52-53)
It echoes the judgement of the kingdom, “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. (Matthew 25: 34) “Then they [the goats] will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25: 46)
Yes, the kingdom will come. Let us pray and work that in the communities we build, we are on pilgrimage to inherit this kingdom—of generosity, gratitude and justice, God’s justice. —CONTRIBUTED