Both readings today deal with the concept of justice, but from different angles.
In the first reading we have Joseph and his brothers who are jealous because they somehow feel that they have been treated unfairly. The have confused the truth that all people are of equal dignity with a childish notion that equality means everybody gets the same size piece of cake.
In the gospel we get the tenants who feel no obligation to give to the owner of the vineyard what he is due, and take it out first on the servants then on the son.
Both the brothers in the first story and the tenants in the gospel are angered because they erroneously believe that they have been wronged. They have somehow been cheated.
In the last few weeks I have been struck by three seemingly senseless deaths: the young man from ODU who grew up as an altar boy in my church, followed by the sudden death of my assistant's father, followed by the death of a local teenager who had just finished a marathon in Virginia Beach. Having had my big brother pass away suddenly when I was 12 I know the pain.
We tend in those moment to see it as unfair. We get angry because we feel like they (and we) were somehow cheated. We say things like, "His life was cut short." But the simple fact is none of that is true.
First because we believe in the possibility of eternal life that God offers to all.
Second, and more to the point, we cannot be cheated or our lives cut short because none of us is promised even one day. Justice is giving a person what they are due. None of us is entitled to any particular number of years on this earth.
When I was born, no one promised me 80 years on earth. In my case there was a real question as to whether I would survive even a day. To say someone's life was cut short is to presume that it was supposed to last a particular length of time. When my brother died at 17 in a freak car accident. It wasn't "God's will." It was an entire constellation of factors that led to the accident, some were human choices.
However and whenever death comes it is painful, devastating for loved ones but it is never unfair.
This blog entry might be the last thing I ever do. I could get up from this computer, have a heart attack and my earthly life be over. My bother's death at 17 was as fair as my mother's death at 77.
We are not promised, nor do we have a right to even one day on earth. Every day is a gift. Each morning when we wake up we should thank God for that gift. We should use the gift wisely, guard it like it was pure gold. And if we make it to the end of the day, thank God again. Every conversation with a loved one, we should presume that it is the last one. The only time that any of us have for certain is this moment. How many will we waste on stupid things like anger and envy.
During Lend we often give away things. We make donations. The most precious thing we can give away during Lent is time. Giving our time, our undivided attention to others can be worth more than all the monetary donations in the world.
How will you spend this day, this gift.