Life’s Artificial Ladder

‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Matthew 20: 1-16a

thThe definition says, “It’s a structure consisting of a series of bars or steps between two upright lengths of wood, metal, or rope, used for climbing up or down something.”

Well, there you have it. It’s a “structure” meaning it’s firm, reliable and lasting. “Between two upright lengths,” meaning you have something to grab a hold of. “Wood, metal or rope;” what you make it out of doesn’t matter, just as long as it lasts. Finally and most importantly, “used for climbing up or down something.” To the dictionary’s clean definition of climbing up or down “something,” I would add the word “someone.” It’s the “someone” that has our attention this Sunday.

There. You now have in one complete sentence the U.S. definition of work, value, and worth. Yet, where’s the dignity, where’s the compassion, where’s the unity? (All Churchy words by the way – dignity, compassion, unity.)

“If you work hard enough, you will succeed” has been our axiom for generations. You can now erase that thought.

“Dedication and loyalty will serve you and the company well; well into the future.” Get out your erasers because there’s another goner statement.

“If you fail or are having a difficult time, others will support and help you learn your trade.” Still got your Ticonderoga Number Two pencil? Now turn it around and erase that statement as well.

Now we’re settled. Now we’re set to talk about the real world and the way things are and the way they were meant to be.

A young person these days may have ten or fifteen jobs before reaching retirement or acquiring retirement’s wealth. Those jobs are void of anything I said before about commitment or value. A lack of investment now fills the marketplace. If the company will not invest in you then why should you personally invest in the company?

“But I worked so much harder,”

Jesus tells us that walking those church doors destroys the structure I identified at the beginning. Jesus destroys all our worldly notions with a simple but profound explanation of a worker’s equality. “But I worked so much harder,” says the early guy who receives the same pay as the late-afternoon-guy who worked only one hour. That’s Jesus. Surprisingly unpredictable but fully embracing of us all. The worldly business investment may have shifted but God’s investment in you – in your value and worth – has never and will never change. God is not a “CEO,” God is “GOD.” The Church knows this to be true and we need to believe it as well.

Can we do any less? Can we do any less when judging or evaluating anyone who crosses our paths? Our lives are the same and the pay is exactly the same for the guy with a private jet and the gal raising two children alone. That’s called “Church.”

The gospel today also includes priests.

The gospel today also includes priests. There’s a deference or a humble submission that I’ve witnessed and felt in my thirty-seven years of doing this. When I was a deacon there were three housekeepers in the rectory as though I couldn’t toilet myself. (Please realize that “toilet” is not a verb.) Shaking your hand after Mass and telling me “Good sermon, Father” doesn’t help me unless you really mean it.

I will preach what you want to hear and what you may not want to hear, only what I feel you need to hear. And, sometimes I’ll be wrong in my assessment.

If my sermons offend you in some way then realize that it was intended because that’s part of my responsibility as well. Treating me special like a porcelain doll or the “man with all the answers” doesn’t advance the Church’s mission, it only perpetuates the silly notion that I’m different or more special than you. And, I’m not any different or special. I’m not on a “bar or step” that’s higher than yours.

Talking to a senior citizens, you naturally congratulate them on their 35-40 years with one company they loved and served well. Those days are way over folks. Jesus Christ was wrong. The Son of God didn’t know about economics and wavering markets. The Savior of the World didn’t know about poor projections, downturns and recessions…and most importantly profits, executive compensations and the demands of stock holders. No, the man we call Jesus only knew about you and me – as equal travelers on this journey of life.

Because it’s the way it is doesn’t meant it’s the way it should be.

Because it’s the way it is doesn’t mean it’s the way it should be. The definition at the beginning is of a stupid ladder solely meant for fixing things that you cannot reach. That ladder is not for separating people – people like you and me. We, in the Church, can reach higher because working all day or for only one hour is worth of God’s praise along with generous pay.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available on

“Soulful Muse,” inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Living Faith’s Mysteries,” inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons
of Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

Newest books include:
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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