Daily Reflection
August 18th, 1999
Renee Nienaber
Student, Christian Spirituality Program
Judges 9:6-15
Matthew 20:1-16a

My strongest memory of childhood is dessert time at our home.  Mom had the amazing ability to divide a leftover half of cake into six equal pieces (even though we big kids probably “deserved” more than the little kids).  The real wonder for me, the sweet tooth of the family, is that my mother took none for herself.

We like a sense of justice!  Americans have teethed on the last words of the Pledge of Allegiance:  “with liberty and justice for all.”  No wonder so few people like today’s gospel of the laborers in the vineyard.  This parable rankles; it gets under our skin!  We cry out, “Unfair!”  The owner was paying what he had agreed, but we want him to be fair according to our standards, not his!  We don’t want there to be such a thing as a “free lunch,” at least not for others!

We can delight when God is being abundant to us (a beautiful sunset, an engaging conversation, a delicious meal, an inspiring liturgy, a relaxing vacation, a surprise phone call…)  But some “button” seems to be pushed when we find God being too generous with others.  “Why is life is so easy for them?”

In God’s world there is such a thing as a “free lunch.”  If our senses are wide open, we might be able to experience this generosity every day, feel content, and not have to grouse about those who seem to get more.   Unfortunately, though, in the imagery of the first reading of today, we often don’t mind if the “bramble” rules over other people as long as we have the “noble olive tree” ruling over us.

What kind of God do we want?  One who just follows the rule book?  Or one who surprises us with unexpected graces?  A God whose ways are not our ways, whose vision and understanding is beyond our imagination – for both ourselves and others, even those who don’t work as hard as we do?

I love the words of Mark Link, S.J. about divine generosity:  “We asked Jesus for a grain of sand; he gave us a beach.  We asked him for a drop of water; he gave us an ocean.  We asked him for his love; he gave us his body and blood.”

Our God, like my mother, has the strange capacity of being both just and generous at the same time.  And we?

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