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By Andrew B. Malveaux, Sr.
As I read through today’s Gospel I was immediately reminded of a time when I was in high school and we were constantly looking for summer jobs. One encounter took us to a country club golf course to caddy. The bus would pick up a load of teenagers and mostly young adults on the corner of Elgin and Dowling, at about 6:30 in the morning and we would be driven to the country club where we would wait, hanging around the caddy shack all day, hoping to be called to carry golf bags around the golf course.Some were chosen and some were not. Some golfers were big tippers—some were not.
Has anyone here ever worked TEMPORARY? Like Peakload, where potential workers gather every morning with the hope of being chosen and with the hope of bringing home a day’s wage. Some are chosen and some waste an entire day just sitting around hoping to be hired—UNLIKE substitute teaching or PRN nursing when you know that if you’re not called by a certain time you’re not going to dothat work that day.
Today we see these same potential laborers milling around the parking lots at Home Depot and Loews waiting to be chosen to go to work—because that’s the only way they can feed their families. Some are chosen—some are not!
The marketplaces that St. Matthew tells us about this morning were places where workers would make their way first thing in the morning. They would show up with their tools, and they would wait to be hired. These laborers were the lowest class of workers. Their employment was often left to chance because for most of these workers the wages earned from their day of work was what kept their family fed for that very day and maybe the next. In short, a day without work was a day without wages. A day without wages could mean disaster for a worker and his family. The Jewish work day began at 6 a.m. and the hours of the day were counted from that time; therefore, the third hour is 9 a.m., the sixth hour is noon, the ninth hour is 3 p.m., and the eleventh hour is 5 p.m. Now it’s still easy for you and me to fall into the trap of identifying with the workers who were hired early and spent the entire day working and to frown upon the idea that those who worked only one hour were paid a full day’s wage just as the ones who worked a full day.—And we’re 2000 years after Jesus ever presented this parable.
Now, walk with me among these workers who were not chosen first, nor second, nor third, nor fourth. By this time it’s 5:00 and the workday ends in one hour.By now these people are worried—they’re anxious. They could be looking at financial disaster—Hunger—Problems with the family. They may not get chosen at all—and they’ve wasted an entire day milling around the marketplace. Do you think they expected to be paid for 12 hours of work? I don’t think so—furthermore they didn’t ask for a full day’s wage.
Now the landowner decides to pay everyone for a full day of work.
And when they were paid the landowner purposely directed his foreman to pay the last hired first, So that the first hired were still on the premises. Now he could have paid the all-day workers first and they would have been gone and would never have known about the one-hour workers receiving the same pay as theirs. But he didn’t—And I think the story is told this way to create the scenario where the ones who worked all day would grumble and complain that the landowner was not fair. Was he fair? Did the landowner pay the first-hired what he promised them?
In today’s Gospel by St. Matthew we continue Jesus’ discord on what “The Kingdom of Heaven is like”. Matthew tells us that our God is a merciful God. He continues to give even as we don’t deserve. He makes a way where there seems to be no way. Our God is a compassionate God. He knows our needs and he removes obstacles before we even know there is danger ahead. The landowner knew the needs of these workers—and he met their needs even if they didn’t expect it.
All week long I have been counseling with people about their issues related to Hurricane Ike.
I have talked to:
People who spent all night through the entire storm in a closet only to come out and find that their house had blown away while they were in there.
A woman who covered herself with an air mattress and prayed while everything she owned literally blew away
A person who lived in a facility with 200 other people with no lights, no water, and with toilets that wouldn’t flush for three days
People who have invited people to live in their house who ordinarily they would not have even had for a guest for just a few hours.
And I’m not surprised at the response of my St. Mary family –As I’ve spoken to people here –TRUE PEOPLE OF FAITH!—they’re not complaining—even though many still don’t have lights—or they havesome damage, but they know that it could have been worse.
Just as I counseled persons throughout the area this week, I actually had many people to come and ask for help for someone else who they felt were in a worse situation than theirs or because they felt guilty because they recognized that they were recipients of God’s grace and mercy when they knew they had done absolutely nothing to deserve it. You see, Isaiah told us that God’s ways are not our ways. Our God is a generous God. He is a merciful God.
God’s mercy can be seen in the fact that while He sent a hurricane to Galveston and Houston and one to Houma and Baton Rouge, He spared New Orleans this time and Corpus Christi. And everywhere else in the world.
His mercy might be seen in the fact that He sent a strong Cat II; but not a III or Cat IV–AMEN
His mercy might be seen in the fact that we had plenty of time to prepare for this hurricane and to evacuate peaceably—Not like the turmoil of Hurricane Rita!
His mercy might be seen in the fact that there were relatively few lives lost compared to the amount of property damage we sustained.
His mercy might be seen in the relatively low amount of damage incurred and for the fact that we are here this morning—and that He wakes us up every morning and because He woke us up this morningwe are able to thank Him for being a gracious, merciful, compassionate, caring and loving God. Because we have received what we have not earned and for that we are ever-grateful and we are thankful. And that we will keep the faith because we know that God never takes us to something that He is not going to take us through. And we know that our God is a generous, forgiving and a merciful God.
Copyright 2008, Andrew B. Malveaux, Sr. Used by permission.