Most of us are attuned to the issue of fairness. But what is interesting is how often people criticize God for not being fair. I’m reminded of Jesus’ parable about the workers who were hired to work all day and those hired at the end of the day. The parable illustrates the generous vineyard owner giving all the workers a full day’s wage. The exhausted workers who toiled in the heat cried foul when he saw they late-in-the-day workers hardly breaking a sweat. Jesus posed the question, “Why can’t I be generous with my money? It is after all mine, isn’t it?”
What about God’s generosity toward us? I look at myself and I stand back in awe. I was born into a wonderful family, with a mom and dad who were good Catholics. My sister and I were taught from early on how to pray, what to believe, and how to live our lives. I received a vocation to the Franciscan life—including ordination to the priesthood. My sister was also called to religious life with the Sisters of Charity. We both had good educations—and then the opportunity to use our talents for the good of others.
I often wonder how I could ever look down on someone whose life has been filled with struggle, abuse, lack of love, or lack of education. How could I ever sit in judgment that they should be doing better? It can be an instant rejection.
All Are Saved
We tend to build ourselves up by comparing ourselves with those who don’t measure up to our standards. We sometimes feel better by looking at those we deem beneath us. And those who are seen as less often do not have the blessings and chances that we have. That’s where rash judgment comes in. How many children today are raised in one-parent homes, and who experience deprivation, rejection, physical abuse, or more? When I grew up in the ‘40s and ‘50s, life was uncomplicated. Growing up in society today is a challenge—even with the best of opportunities.
In the parable of the workers, we have to remember that those who were hired at the end of the day had been standing around waiting for a chance to work. When questioned why they were idle, their answer was: “Because no one has hired us.”
The Gospels tell us that Jesus embraced lepers and outcasts. In those days, sickness of any kind was seen as punishment from God, so people felt good about rejecting them. But Jesus’ answer is just the opposite: they are God’s favorites since they have so little. I think to myself that, given all the gifts I have been blessed with, I’m accountable to the Lord. Next to adoration of God, the next best prayer is one of gratitude. I have to remind myself of how blessed I have been. Can you imagine anyone being upset with Jesus for saving the thief Dismas on the cross? It is a moment to rejoice.
And that is why, even though no one can know who is saved and who is not, the true Christian should pray that everyone be saved.