I’m not being unjust!

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time 20 September 2020

There is a saying, “Unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments“.

Merely expecting something to happen will not make it happen. Developmental psychologist Jean Piaget noted that young children have difficulty distinguishing between the subjective and objective worlds. Piaget referred to this as magical thinking and suggested that we all outgrow it around age 7.  However, it turns out that many normal adults continue to engage in various forms of magical thinking.

Expectations can create confusion and dilemma. St. Paul says in Philippians 1:20-24,27, “I am caught in this dilemma: I want to be gone and be with Christ.” He wants to die so he can be with Christ, but he knows he has to stay to support the young Christian community. He is caught between two sets of expectations and seems to forget that he can be with Christ while being with the community who is the body of Christ. It is both and. Earlier in this passage he says, “Life to me is Christ.” If this is true then would not Christ be, “in” life. Perhaps being in prison, as he was at this time, was influencing his thoughts. But this split thinking is true for us as well, we often miss the presence of Christ here and now, because our expectations for the future remove us from the sacrament of the present moment. We end up missing the moments of consolation on the journey.

Human beings have a tendency to pin their happiness on fulfilled expectations. The problem of expectation occurs when we expect something to happen without good reasons.  Many of us at some point have mistakenly believed that expecting others, or expecting God, to behave the way we want will actually make them behave that way.  When they don’t, we feel shocked, morally indignant, and resentful.  It should be easy to think of examples in your own life where you have felt resentful toward people who did not live up to your expectations.

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 ……… 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.”  “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius?

Matthew 20:1-16

Research says that expectations are often based on implicit social contracts. Yet, God doesn’t have a social moral contract with us.  God has a Covenant not a Contract.  He gives everything without demanding anything back. Remember, “my ways are not your ways.” Isaiah 55:6-9

Let go of expectations and find something to be grateful about, even when things do not turn out the way you hoped, and you will experience serenity rather than resentment.

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.

Fritz Perls, “Gestalt Therapy Verbatim,” 1969