What does God owe us? Today’s Gospel reading speaks very much to that question. Does God owe those who love Him longer more than those who come to Him late? Do deacons get a bigger halo than your average layperson?
Clearly not. One might argue that it’s not fair that those who worked an entire day for the landowner got paid the same amount as those who worked only a few hours. In the words of my dear father, a truly wise and patient man – and words that I heard on numerous occasions as I was growing up, I might add, “Not fair? What idiot told you life is fair?”
The truth is, God owes us nothing. We are the ones who owe God, and we owe Him everything. Considering the size of our debt, He really asks very little of us. Our job here on earth is to know God, to love God and to serve God. Our goal – the goal He calls us to – is to be with Him forever in heaven. That is the goal for everyone.
If one person works his entire life toward that goal… if he dedicates his every moment toward becoming a saint, and God accepts him into heaven at the end of his life, there is cause for rejoicing. If another person thinks very little about God throughout most of his life, but toward the end comes to God, repents of his former ways, and at the end of his life earns the reward of heaven, there is also cause for rejoicing. In both cases, the reward is equal. In both cases, the cause for rejoicing is equal. It would be unjust of the first person to think that he was in some way cheated – they have both been given the same reward, the only reward, and the reward that is offered to all not as something that is our due, but as something that should be our life’s goal.
Nevertheless, though the reward is the same, be the first person. If you make knowing God, loving God, and serving God central to your life, you will have no cause for disappointment later… no cause for shame for a misspent life and missed opportunities. No cause for sadness at the realization of what might have been. The joy of knowing and loving God and dedicating your life to His service is a reward in its own right, because it is the path that leads to peace and wisdom in this life and the beatific vision in the next.