Is Today’s gospel about fairness or generosity? Was it fair that the landowner paid the same amount to those who worked the whole day as those who worked for an hour only? When this is applied to the ways of the world it would seem that the landowner was unfair or unjust. The claim of being generous would be lost in the midst of our bureaucratic ways and the ill feelings of those who worked longer hours. However, when applied to God’s relationship with us, it takes on a whole different meaning. The person who lives a saintly life all his life and the person who lives a life of sinfulness with no regard for God, who repents late in life or on the death bed, both receive the same reward – heaven. It is certainly a challenge for us to look at others regardless of the amount of time, the length of living their faith and have the same love and concern for them. This will mean putting aside any feelings of jealousy toward those who seem to be making it to heaven with a “fire escape” prayer. Conversions late in life, and death conversions, happen in our day, and they are something to behold in joy. We should be thankful to God for being very generous to all of us
We are born yearning for approval, desperate for attention and in need of loving affirmation. An important part of this loving affirmation for others is the readiness to forgive their mistakes and faults, which comes from an awareness of having been forgiven of one’s own faults. This forgiveness is not limited to sinful behavior but extends to limitations of all kinds, which means, in effect, forgiveness for not being perfect. These limitations of nature are very burdensome and we need the help of compassionate and forgiving people to lift that weight from our shoulders. However, forgiveness does not imply that a fault or sin does not matter. It means freely forgiving the person because we are free to do so, having been loved and forgiven ourselves. The seriousness of this challenge to forgive is expressed in the strong words of Jesus indicating that our unwillingness to forgive will guarantee a harsh judgment in the end. We should take great pains to be lenient and compassionate toward others, rather than self-righteous and hard-hearted, so that we may look forward to meeting a lenient and compassionate Divine Judge when our own lives are evaluated.
Today’s gospel presents three possible steps in fraternal correction. The first step in the progression is forthrightly to go to the offender and point out his/her fault one-on-one between just the two of you. This should be done in a way that won’t humiliate the offending person – indeed it should make him realize that the wounds of friends are more to be relied upon than the voluntary kisses of enemies. If the first step doesn’t work, the second step is to bring one or two others with you (v.16), not for the purpose of proving the other person wrong, but to help in the process of reconciliation. If that doesn’t work, proceed to the third step, which is to refer it to the community of faith, the Church (v.17). This is far better than going to the civil courts, which settle nothing concerning personal relationships, and can, instead, cause other complications. The whole process should be motivated by the spirit of forgiveness. The perspective of evangelical discipline remains that of forgiveness and concern for the good even of the offender. That is why charitable correction is a duty that, although difficult, devolves on everyone. All else failing, there is always common prayer. United prayer is more powerful, sensible and effective. Such prayer must never be selfish, but must primarily be for the good of fellowship, remembering that where two or three are gathered together in Jesus’ name (v.20), He is in their midst.