25th Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: September 24, 2023
God does not give us what we deserve.
If we are worried about getting what we think we deserve, it leads to poor ways of seeing God and poor ways of seeing our fellow human beings.
Jesus tells the parable of the various workers called to work in the field. Some who were there the entire day and others only called at the last hour. In the end, each of them received the same pay. Our first reaction is to see this as being unfair. The first people did not feel that they got what they deserved. They also felt that the later ones got more than they deserved. The owner has no patience for them and says, “are you envious because I am generous?”
Are we like them, feeling that we deserve more or envious of others whom we feel deserve less?
Sometimes someone will speak to me who really disappointed or upset with God. They will say that they go to Mass every Sunday, are faithful in their commitments, work hard, why would something bad happen to them? They are thinking that God should give us what we deserve and they obviously feel that they deserve more. It begins with thinking that we earn what we get from God. What we have is not a gift to be received with gratitude, rather it what we have earned on our own and deserve it. A sense of entitlement versus a sense of gratitude.
If we begin with the idea that God gives us what we deserve then we have some real difficulties in our vision of God. An example. Recently we saw thousands of people suddenly killed in an earthquake in Morocco and as many as 10,000 dead in the floods in Libya. Did they get what they deserved? At the same time, we are so fortunate here, without any major natural calamities, with peace and most of us with homes and enough to eat. Are these blessings because we are getting what we deserve?
When we think that God owes us because we deserve it, then we lose our sense of gratitude. When we have good things we think it is due to us earning it and when we have bad things we begin to complain and get bitter since we do not deserve that.
Our life itself is just pure gift. None of us did anything to deserve the gift of life. We did not achieve it or earn it. Life itself is a pure mystery, a gift that we do not deserve. The foundation of our spiritual life should be gratitude.
Thinking that God gives us what deserve also distorts the way we look at our fellow human beings. Those who have more we look at with envy and become bitter. Those with less we fail to see with compassion, we look down on them. In both cases we no longer see brothers and sisters.
Are you certain that God thinks like you? I worry about people who are absolutely sure that they know how God thinks about something! Through the Prophet Isaiah in our first reading, God says, “my thoughts are not your thoughts,…” Last week I saw a display in Toronto of art based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. There I saw a quote from Dante that said, “…doubting pleases me as much as knowing.” We need to be careful when we are so sure that we know how God thinks.
God does not give us what we deserve. Start from there. Then develop a sense of gratitude rather than entitlement. Develop a sense of compassion instead of envy.