Homily for Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa

The gospels report many occasions when Jesus teaches his disciples about mercy.  We have his words, What I want is mercy, not sacrifice … not even the sacrifice of working long hours for him.

In a merely human way, all the workers being paid exactly the same amount, regardless of how much work they did or for how long, seems unfair, unjust.  The unions would be up in arms!  But, not only did all the workers receive the sum that they agreed to, the landowner realizes that every worker needs to live that day.  Every worker possibly has a family to support.  And so, in generosity and mercy, he gives every worker what they need for that day.

The parable is teaching us what God is like.  God’s mercy and generosity means that God wants to see everyone saved.  God doesn’t want anyone to be lost.  So people who turn to Him, even late in the day, or late in their lives, can receive the gift of salvation.  This shouldn’t lead anyone else to grumble, or to say, “well I’m not going to bother doing the right thing now, if you can walk in at the 11th hour and receive the same as me!”  We’re invited to imitate the mercy and generosity of God … and even to be mediators of that mercy and generosity, to help people receive it.

Perhaps a remedy to this attitude is to in fact realize that we are already recipients of this generosity and mercy – which maybe we’re tempted to forget!  It doesn’t matter how many times we have failed to live up to our ideals in our behaviour, our thoughts, our attitudes and desires;  it doesn’t matter how many times we have fallen short of what God wants of us … with one good Confession all of that is wiped away.  We can be as certain of heaven as anyone who has lived more perfect, even more saintly lives.  Such is God’s generosity and mercy.

As we continue to labour in the Lord’s service, and bear the burden of the day, let’s focus not so much on ourselves, but rather on the love of God, who makes his mercy and generosity available to all.  Let’s rejoice in that love which saves us!