COUNTING LOOSE CHANGE (Mt 20:1-16a): 21 September 2008 (Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

COUNTING LOOSE CHANGE (Mt 20:1-16a):  21 September 2008 (Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Today’s Readings

Last night I got stuck in Metro Manila traffic and noticed that for some reason, there seemed to be more beggars and street children than usual.  Several beggars later, after giving the car window the customary taps to send them away, I wondered about the last time that I had actually given alms to a beggar.  I couldn’t remember when.  When I asked myself why, I realized it was because I usually didn’t carry coins in my pocket. Then it struck me:  Why do I help only when I have loose change to spare? 

I think we tend to have the same ‘loose change’ mentality with the Lord.   Many of us really give him no more than our so-called ‘loose change’.  We tend to give him time when there is nothing else to do.  The so-called prime time of our day is reserved for our selves, our work, even our relaxation and entertainment.  Prayer, Mass, service in the church or community–we just somehow squeeze these in, if at all, between the major programs of our lives. When we get busy, these are usually the first things to go. Some of us even wait till we’re past our prime before we begin thinking of God and giving him room in our lives. It seems that we reserve for God only the things that we can spare; in other words, loose change.

The parable our Lord tells in today’s gospel is about loose change.  A vineyard owner hires workers at different times throughout the day, and despite the differences in the amount of work they have done, the owner decides to pay everyone the same wages.  Those who have worked the longest count their money, compare their wages with those who have done less, and are understandably unhappy.

When they complain that the wages are unfair, the landowner explains why he has not cheated them, as he says to one of them,  “My friend, did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?  Are you envious because I am generous?”

The Lord is telling us not to count loose change with him.  If we decide to serve him and do work in his vineyard, the last thing we should do is count the coins and compare the reward we receive with others’.  We ought to be happy if he decides to give everyone an equally generous reward.  That seems to be his way.  He rewards–or loves–us based not on what we have done, but on who we are.

Those of us who have a ‘loose change’ mentality may respond differently to this.   Some of us may think,”If God is going to treat us all the sameanyway, why not just wait till the last minute before we serve him or change our ways?”  In other words, if God is going to forgive us anyway, why not just procrastinate and enjoy as much as we can?”

Only a wage earner or a slave will think this way, trying to get away with as little work as possible to get the highest possible compensation.  A slave will count his hours and measure the efforts required by his work, and demand that he be compensated accordingly–not one centavo less.  But it is different with a friend.  Friendships follow an entirely different logic:  More than the benefits he will receive for his work, a friend’s greater concern will be how much help he has been to the person he loves.

Note that the landowner in the parable addresses his worker as “friend.”  For as long as we insist on counting loose change, we remain a slave and not a friend of the Lord.  A true friend of the Lord is never happy with his service and wishes he has done more–or started earlier.

Such was the sentiment of St. Augustine when upon reflection about his life, he wrote the following unforgettable lines for his prayer:

Late have I loved you,
O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,
late have I loved you!

Recently, I found a contemporary version of St. Augustine’s prayer.  Former American Idol finalist Chris Doughtry recorded a song called “What about Now?”  It could have been just another love song with a nice tune, but the music video raises the song to an entirely different level. The video shows ordinary people doing their share to make some difference in the world and urges each one to do the same.  The message is as inspiring as it is urgent, and echoes one of the things I think the Lord is trying to tell us today:  “What about now?”

Here’s a Quick Question for you:  Do you think you still have a ‘loose change’ mentality with the Lord?  What do you think can you do about it?

Note:  Below are the Prayer of St. Augustine and the lyrics to Doughtry’s song.  To watch the music video, “What about Now?” click here or here.

Prayer of St. Augustine

Late have I loved you,
O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,
late have I loved you!
You were within me, but I was outside,
and it was there that I searched for you.
In my unloveliness I plunged
into the lovely things which you created.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
Created things kept me from you;
yet if they had not been in you
they would have not been at all.
You called, you shouted,
and you broke through my deafness.
You flashed, you shone,
and you dispelled my blindness.
You breathed your fragrance on me;
I drew in breath and now I pant for you.
I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.
You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

From the Confessions of St. Augustine

WHAT ABOUT NOW?
(Chris Doughtry)

Shadows fill an empty heart
As love is fading,
From all the things that we are
But are not saying.
Can we see beyond the scars
And make it to the dawn?

Change the colors of the sky.
And open up to
The ways you made me feel alive,
The ways I loved you.
For all the things that never died,
To make it through the night,
Love will find you.

What about now?
What about today?
What if you’re making me all that I was meant to be?
What if our love never went away?
What if it’s lost behind words we could never find?
Baby, before it’s too late,
What about now?

The sun is breaking in your eyes
To start a new day.
This broken heart can still survive
With a touch of your grace.
Shadows fade into the light.
I am by your side,
Where love will find you.

What about now?
What about today?
What if you’re making me all that I was meant to be?
What if our love, it never went away?
What if it’s lost behind words we could never find?
Baby, before it’s too late,
What about now?

Now that we’re here,
Now that we’ve come this far,
Just hold on.
There is nothing to fear,
For I am right beside you.
For all my life,
I am yours.

What about now?
What about today?
What if you’re making me all that I was meant to be?
What if our love never went away?
What if it’s lost behind words we could never find?

What about now?
What about today?
What if you’re making me all that I was meant to be?
What if our love never went away?
What if it’s lost behind words we could never find?
Baby, before it’s too late,
Baby, before it’s too late,
Baby, before it’s too late,
What about now?

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.