Fairness and Mercy

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time: September 24, 2017

“That is just not fair.” How many times do we say those words? Most people are very concerned about fairness. We all want to understand how things work, what the rules are, how the game is played, what it takes to achieve a certain outcome. We all want a certain predictability in life. If I do this, I will get that. You all know what I am talking about.

As we heard the gospel today I am sure we all thought: “That was not fair. Why should the vineyard worker who worked only the last hour of the day get the same pay as the worker who worked all long day in the heat?”


One of the many lessons we can learn from the Gospel is this: “Life is not fair.” It is just not. The sooner we learn that lesson the better off we will be. Some examples:


Two waitresses work in the same restaurant, work the exact same hours, serve the same number of tables, treat their customers the same, but one get twice the number of tips. Should that server split the difference with the other? Why not?


How about the child who is born healthy, but the child next door is born disabled? Is that fair?


How about the driver who gets a ticket the first time he is pulled over and other drivers get pulled over all the time but somehow manage to talk their way out of it. Is that fair?


How about all of us who were born in the United States, while so many others are born in Haiti, or some other third world country. Is that fair?


Some people are born into wealthy families, while others are born into families in poverty? Is that fair?


How about the high school student who gets all “A’s” without doing any studying, and another spends hours studying only to get a “C”? Is that fair?


How about the person who is an outstanding athlete and another person who is clumsy? Fair?


Life is not fair. The playing field is not level for everyone. And the sooner we accept that the better off we will be.


In the Gospel today when the Landowner sends workers into his vineyard at all hours of the day, even the final hour, and then pays each one a full day’s wage; it certainly was not fair. That’s all there is to it.


So the lesson we learn from the Gospel today is simple: life is not fair, that’s all there is to it. So we need to stop complaining about it, and instead do something about it. The key to understanding all the unfairness is the very last sentence of today’s gospel: “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”


One of many ways we can classify people is those who “have” and those who “have not”. Those who seem to breeze through life are often called the “have’s”, and those who struggle through life are the “have nots”.


The Gospel today begins with the words: “The kingdom of heaven is like…” “The first will be last and the last will be first”. From the gospel today we learn that those who struggle through this life, the “have nots” are going to heaven almost automatically. The first shall be last and the Last will be first. We who always seem to be first in this world, the “have’s” need the “have nots” to take us to heaven with them. Some day we will be standing at the pearly gates hoping someone inside, the “have nots”, will recognize us and say, “Let them in, they were good to me while we were on earth. They showed me mercy.”


In conclusion, Life is not about fairness, it is all about mercy. We must show mercy. MERCY. Mercy on all those whom life of this earth was not fair. Amen.

Fr. Terry Hazel

Sunday Readings

Isaiah 55:6–9

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord


Philippians 1:20c–24, 27a

I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better.


Matthew 20:1–16a

[Jesus said,] “Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”