This Sunday, the Readings are all about the human sense of justice contrasted with the extravagant grace and love of a merciful and compassionate God. God rewards us, not in the measure of what we do, but according to our need and His good will. All the Readings of today have one thing in common; God’s Love for us, and the Church invites us to emulate this love.
In the first Reading, Isaiah invites us to “Seek the Lord while he is to be found; call to him while he is near, and let the wicked man abandon his way…!” In this Reading, we see a God who expresses His love for His people. We also see a God who in spite of our infidelity, continues to search for us. A God who cares and is ready to welcome us if we put aside our evil ways – then we shall receive His mercy and forgiveness.
In the second Reading, Paul offers himself as an example of total submission, aided by God’s grace, to His will. Paul is ready to live continuing his mission, or to die and join the Lord, whichever is God’s will. Paul also expresses the love he has for God and for the Gospel. As Christians, often times, we are pulled in two directions. We all want to go to heaven, yet this life still appeals to us. Paul too, had the same mixed feelings.
This created a conflict in him. He longed to be with Christ, for that would be much better. However, he also wanted to live, because of his love for his brothers and children in faith. Paul’s answer to life’s most profound dilemma is, “to live, is Christ, and to die, is gain.” Love for Christ, the Good News and for our brethren, must motivate all our actions. It must be the source of our strength. Paul sums up his reflection with the following instruction: “Avoid any thing in your everyday lives that would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ.”
In the Gospel, Christ presents to us with a dilemma. How could the employer pay everyone the same amount? It was difficult for the earlier, (or first), group of workers to understand just as it is for most of us today. The key to understanding the action of the owner of the vineyard in this parable is in the first Reading of today. God reminds us that: “My thoughts are not your thought, and my ways are not your ways.”
What we see in action in the Gospel today, is simply the justice of God that, of course, is not the justice formula of the world. His justice is governed by His mercy, compassion, divine benevolence, bounty, generosity and unconditional love for all. His action towards the last group of workers shows that He is not acting in accordance with strict justice or economics.
Rather, He is motivated by love and generosity towards all that respond to His invitation. To all of us, He has extended the same unmerited invitation. To all, He will pay the same wage, because His love is unconditional. His reward does not depend upon when He called anyone, but on His generous, and unimaginable love for all.
What counts in God’s vineyard are not years of service, but diligence of heart as a chosen one. All men and women, no matter when they come in, are equally precious to God. Therefore, God’s reward for all in His kingdom, is simply, His grace that is extended to all those who responded faithfully to His divine invitation. His love is for all.
The Church advises us not to become envious of others because of our lack of generosity of heart. Envy should have no place in our lives. We should dare not pass any judgment on the way God blesses others, only rejoice that He does so, just as He blesses us.
That we also need to practice generosity of heart, means that we should be generous in the way we give someone encouragement and a kind word when that person is feeling down, even though that person might not be one of our best buddies. We can be generous in the way we give our time to help someone going through a rough patch. When someone says something that offends us, we can be generous in our reaction, sympathize and understand, rather than give back the hostility or injury just as it was given to us. When we have fallen out with someone or believe we have been unfairly treated, we can be generous in our willingness to reach out, make amends and restore friendships. When someone really annoys us and gets under our skin, we can be generous with our patience and kindness, dealing with that person in a way that reflects the generous nature of God.
When we see people who lack the bare necessities needed for a happy and healthy life, we need to be generous with what we have been given by our generous God.
Thank you, Lord, for showing me through this beautiful story how rich my God is in mercy and abounding in love towards the poor and the needy and has asked me to do the same.
The Lord is Good! Fr. Jude CSSp