Today’s Gospel reading in Matthew (20:1-16) talks about a landowner who hires workers throughout the day to tend to his fields; from dawn to dusk he brings them in. At the end of the day everyone received the same wage, regardless of how long they worked. Envy has the first workers crying foul, to which they are then chastised for their own unfairness in demanding the landowner limit his generosity.
The last round of workers in Matthew at first seem like a bunch of worthless moochers, but Jesus makes it clear that they are of great value. You see, these workers came very close to missing out on a great opportunity, but they made it. Why they almost missed out is irrelevant; they worked, and the work they did earned them their wage. Many sermons focus on the generosity of the land owner in paying equal wages for unequal labor, but the time invested by each group of workers provide another important consideration. Everyone has a chance to offer their work, no matter how late they are in the game. Until the moment of death, each of us can forgive and be forgiven. We can change and accept change in others.
That is why we are to forgive “seventy-seven” times (Mt. 18:22). Rather than meaning a specific amount of faults we are supposed to overlook, “seventy-seven” is Hebrew code-speak for “forever”. There is no end to the offenses we are to forgive from our friends, our family, our co-workers, or our roommates. It’s not fun, and will often feel unrewarding in the moment, but our Catholic faith encourages us to remain in hope; for others and for ourselves. We have access to the same unending forgiveness if we are willing to seek it out. We can’t be afraid to swallow our pride and admit where we fall short, no matter how uncomfortable it feels in the moment. Those workers from Matthew received a wage not only because they were given a chance but also because they accepted that chance.
All of us have opportunities to be generous with our resources, our love, and our forgiveness. We also have many chances to be given these generous gifts. Depending on where you are in your day, or in your life, don’t be afraid to assess who you are, what you can offer, and what you should ask for.