Seek the LORD while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked his thoughts; Let him turn to the LORD for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. (Isaiah 55:6-8)
The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness. The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all his works. (Psalm 145:8-9)
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Mt 20:16)
Prayer for Generosity
Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as I should,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labor and ask not for reward,
Save that of knowing that I do your most holy will.
--St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)
In last Sunday’s Gospel, the master forgave the servant’s debt. Sources report that debt was 10,000 talents. The average Jewish worker earned about two talents in an entire lifetime. In this week’s gospel, the vineyard owner pays the worker who worked for one hour the same regular full-day wage to those who worked for the whole day. This master is generous, but he is not in the same league with last week’s master. Yet by any measure, he is still very generous. God’s ways are not our ways. How many of us would be as generous as either one of these masters?
Think of “The World” as operating in a transactional way. Work for x number of hours and receive x number of dollars. Put your credit card in the slot and buy x gallons gas at x dollars per gallon. As we see in today’s gospel, God does not operate in a transactional mode. God’s ways are not the ways of the world by any stretch of the imagination. Few of us could afford to be as generous as this master, but most of us could probably afford to be a little more generous than we are.
The current awakening to the racial injustice which has plagued our country since its founding can and should allow us to be more generous.
The following words adapted from Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1967 book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? appeared in the special King issue of The Atlantic magazine:
The real cost lies ahead. The stiffening of white resistance is a recognition of that fact. The discount education given Negroes will, in the future, have to be purchased at full price if quality education is to be realized. Jobs are harder and costlier to create than voting rolls. The eradication of slums housing millions is complicated far beyond integrating buses and lunch counters.
Here we are, 53 years after Dr. King wrote and delivered these words, and we as a nation have still not been willing to pay the price necessary to create a country in which we can genuinely say, “all men are created equal” and in which treats all men, women, and children equally.
Repairing the damage done by centuries of racial injustice is one of the issues requiring us as a nation and as individuals to respond with love and generosity.
While the abortion rate reached a historic low in 2017, there are still hundreds of thousands of abortions each year.
Scientists around the world tell us that climate change is the most significant issue of our time. The events of this past week would seem to give evidence of the truth of this assessment. I read this week that 25% of the CO2 emitted from each tank of gas we burn will still be in the atmosphere 10,000 years from now (The Long Thaw by David Archer). Think about that.
These are just three areas in which we Americans, in the wealthiest country on earth, have an opportunity to be loving and generous like the vineyard owner and support our brothers and sisters in need here and around the world.
As a nation, are we loving and generous enough to repair the damage done by centuries of racial injustice?
As a nation, are we loving and generous enough to provide adequate medical care, jobs, housing, and education so that poor people can afford to have babies and raise them in healthy environments?
As a nation, are we loving and generous enough to adopt and raise the hundreds of thousands of unwanted children that will otherwise be aborted each year?
As a nation, are we loving and generous enough to deal with climate change and accelerate the process of repairing the damage we have done to our world?
Responding to any of these issues will require most of us to do with less to serve the common good better. Are we loving and generous enough to do so?