Why be envious because I am generous? (Matthew 20:15)
It is sometimes said that there are two topics of conversation which should never be aired in polite company. One is politics and the other is religion. So, to bring both religion and politics together is especially dangerous. Yet this is what todays Gospel seems to do.
Here we have the labourers in the vineyard paid the same rate whether they worked all day or just for one hour.
Now the political mind looks at that story in terms of fairness and justice.
On the one hand it could be said that the parable underlines the rights of the employer, the vineyard owner, to do what he wishes with his money - to pay what he likes to whom he likes when he likes. No place for unions or regulations or a minimum wage here.
But on the other hand another political mind may disagree and say that the parable underlines the need for all to be supported, everyone to receive a basic wage, all to be given a living income whether work is available or not.
Which is right? Well both and neither. The Gospel deals with political issues, but also does far more.
Political life and questions are about fairness and justice, about rights and entitlements. They are all important in their own way. The Church supports struggles for justice, the promotion and protection of human rights – the right to a living wage and the right to own property.
But the Gospel does not stop there. The Gospel is not about rights – but about responsibilities. It is not about justice and fairness, but about love. It is about doing what is right, but also about doing more than is needed.
The Good Samaritan does not only stop to help, but he takes the wounded man to the inn. The man owed a great sum of money does not only give the debtor time to pay, but wipes out all the debt. The vineyard owner does not only find work for those seeking it – but pays them more than they are due.
The Church must challenge politicians. It must promote human life, human rights, peace and justice – but it can never be restricted to them. For God’s love is greater, more generous, than any legislator or political policy could ever be.