August 23, 2017
by Nancy Shirley
Creighton University's College of Nursing 
click here for photo and information about the writer

Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 421

Judges 9:6-15
Psalm 21:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
Matthew 20:1-16
Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

There is no doubt that life is a journey – one filled with challenges and triumphs. A journey made easier if it is not traveled alone and if traveled with an open heart and mind. I’m relatively sure that I’m no different than most facing these challenges and wondering many times the best way to deal with them.  What does seem to be perhaps different for me of late is that as I’m trying to discern my approach to a challenge, I’m assigned a reflection that makes me look at it squarely and I can’t avoid thinking about deeply.  Even though these are randomly assigned (at least from the people on earth), I’m amazed at the readings I’m confronted with each time. 

So many times over the years when discussing “hard” readings, I bring up “that one about the vineyard” commenting on how difficult it is for me to accept that one – it challenges me perhaps as much as any I’ve read.  I’m adamant about fairness and equity (some might even say fixated) so that reading always “trips my trigger.”  Fast forward to summer 2017 and I’m struggling with some issues about fairness and equity in various aspects of my life.  I click on the link to my readings for my assigned day and, wham, right between the eyes, the gospel is “the vineyard reading.”  You can imagine my reactions: What?  Is this a joke?  How will I do this?

It is clear to me that God has a sense of humor and it is equally clear that God is determined that I will spend time thinking about this (even more!!) and discern the meaning in it for me and my situation.  Consequently, you all are on this part of the journey with me. 

In my heart of heart, I have always believed that those people who worked all day should be paid more.  They worked so many more hours.  But. . .  this is my secular thinking – so limited by my humanness and inability to see beyond.  I have to stop and understand the symbolism of the parable.  I need to think about Grace – a gift given to us not because we deserve or “earn” it.  Rather a gift freely given by a loving God.  The “wages” given are Grace – regardless of how long one worked, the Grace was not earned – we cannot resent the generosity of God in giving His Grace – if I think about it without the secular spin, I know that none of us truly deserve what we get in terms of this gift of Grace. 

An excerpt from 2 Timothy sums it up so much better than I can express:
For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time - to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.

As a nursing faculty member at Creighton University, I try to integrate Jesuit/Ignatian values into my teaching and life.  An important Ignatian concept that also relates to this gospel is that of Preferential Option for the Poor.  It is difficult at times for some students to fully embrace this concept.  Some of them share my obsession with equality and respond that they would always treat all their patients/clients equally.  Here’s where I take the opportunity to discuss the difference between equality and equity.  I agree with them that we want equal outcomes (hmmm . . we all want God’s Grace!), however, to reach such outcomes we may need different interventions, different levels of resources and energy.

Bottom-line, the Grace we are given is never earned no matter how long we work, no matter the hours, no matter the labor; it is God’s goodness and love that bestows this Grace upon us.

When we are called to the vineyard and accept, we are recipients of that Grace!

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