It’s NOT FAIR but is it ‘just’.
It's not fair. How many times have we said it or heard it about things that occur in our life. Today's gospel is certainly an example of that. In fact, that's probably your first reaction when you read it or heard it proclaimed, certainly has been mine for many years until I was pointed in a slightly different direction until thinking about this homily.
The words fair, just, fairness and justice are often used interchangeably. Their application is most important as to determine their definition. Using an example helped me to acquire a better understanding of the two words and how something may not be seen as fair but is viewed just.
Using this example – there are two individuals who have a contract of which they have a dispute. The dispute is resolved by compromise in a manner which is satisfactory to both. We can say that the contract was resolved in a fair manner exhibiting fairness to both parties. In the second instance one party/individual is favored over the other in the settlement leaving one dissatisfied. In this second instance a principle of law, policy or procedure was applied to resolve the issue in a just manner.
Justice comes when an application of morals, policy, procedure, law or other is applied to the resolution while fairness arises when things are resolved in a manner in which we emotional satisfied.
In this week’s gospel we might all agree to some extent that the treatment doesn't seem between the ‘early in’ and ‘late arrivals’. After all they both came, delivered their best, did what was expected in the manner expected and were paid for their services as the landowner had agreed. Yet there is the feeling of unfairness – one must ask why – because the early in workers labored longer. Remember they agreed to the daily wage for the day. The landowner acted properly paying wages not based on time of labor but as agreed.
This parable makes me think of those folks – maybe a family member, friend or person in the pew next to you who were not born into Catholicism but at some time in their life discerned and were part of a program of formation which took them to their election and acceptance into full communion in the Catholic Church. Such individuals are in our very midst.
This Easter vigil those newly accepted neophytes will be, without any limitation or inequity, ‘fully’ catholic just like many of us born into Catholicism. Those newly accepted neophytes will not labor/be challenged by sin ‘as long’ through their lives as we all striving for the eternal kingdom. Are they not entitled to the same benefits as we who were born into Catholicism and worked so many years? Some may say not fair but nevertheless the reward is just.
So fair and just make me stop and think before I speak.