It seems there is no end these days to the horrific images of terror and violence broadcast to our TV sets, streaming on the internet and filling the pages of newspapers and magazines. As random killings and brutal executions become more the rule than the exception how do we react? Certainly there are the justified reasons for revulsion and disgust. We are outraged and perhaps filled with disdain for the perpetrators of such actions.
In the midst of all this violence what do these actions do to the fabric of our society? Certainly fear rises to a new height. Who will be next? How brutal and widespread will it be? The level of mistrust among people grows. Hope gives way to cynicism. Acts of vengeance are plotted to be served on the perpetrators.
Into all this walks Jesus with a parable about those who work all day in the hot sun getting paid the same wage as those who worked only one hour in the cool of the late afternoon. Whose side is Jesus on, anyway? There is enough sadness in the world without this seeming blatant injustice.
The parable is not about fairness. It is about generous mercy. Some struggle with the “deathbed confession”. A person lives a whole life in sin, then repents just at the last minute and it is an express trip to heaven. How fair is that? By our standards, it is not fair. By Jesus’ standards, it is generous. So think about this. Who among us would not want to be the recipient of this same generous mercy? In fact, most of us already have been.
Jesus calls us to be generous in our mercy. This does not mean that we condone or tolerate the wrongdoing of others. People need to be held accountable for the wrong that they do. Generous mercy means that we do not wish them harm. It means that we hope and pray for their redemption.
Fr. Gordon Moreland, Director of the House of Prayer for Priests once said, “As Catholics we pray for the faithful departed. Maybe we should also pray for the unfaithful departed.” Now that would be an act of generous mercy.