Jesus told this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them, “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.” In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.’
“… but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally”
Yesterday, we talked about the stewardship of wealth and material gain. Today’s readings are about the stewardship of something just as corrupt, if handled improperly – power. The movie ‘Spotlight’ came out last year amid a certain amount of publicity. I watched it when it first opened and remember being incensed by it. It hit me where I hurt the easiest, my faith. I watched it again after I had calmed down a bit. Then again. And again. We had a long discussion about it at church. The Father addressed everyone. Some people were shaken up, some dismissed it. Some got angry and walked out of the room. I sat back and watched everything quietly, thinking how happy I was that we could have a dialogue about this so openly. I remember thinking, ‘How I love my church, we’re so mature’. And then an article came out in the local papers that seemed to imply that some years ago, a woman had been assaulted by a priest in our parish and not enough had been done about it. She was now seeking further compensation for her distress. Suddenly it was here, this ‘thing’, this ‘sickness’ that we had only read about or talked about, here it was in our midst. It hurt because distrust was in His house, in our house. Did it happen? Did it not happen? Was someone just trying to rehash an old story to get some attention? Was the press goading her on to sell some newspapers?
People don’t realize the power they wield until they exercise their influence. In this instance, the people that held the power to do something were the Father, the priest in question and the reporter who thought it a good idea to rehash an old story. Power corrupts when we exercise it poorly. Did the priest do it, did he not? Did the Father do enough by removing the priest in question? Did the press do too much by scandalizing a case that was already in the midst of being worked out? Who’s wrong, who’s right? Are we even allowed to opine on it?
I grew a little ‘older’ after that incident, no more the wide-eyed happy-just-to-be-here parishioner anymore. I still go to church. I still love my faith. But I lost something in all of that — my innocence — maybe? And a small seed of doubt had been sown in my heart. Is this how Adam and Eve felt when they opened their eyes and thought they could see? Do people in power ever think about the damage they can do other people’s faith journeys?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for those in power, that they wield it with self-awareness and responsibility.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the ability to discern the truth from the hype.