Infinitely Generous Love
It’s safe to say that the message in today’s gospel reading would not be found in the Manifesto of any political party or the Mission Statement of any business enterprise. Nor would it be high on the list of our own tick list of ‘Ways to live the Golden Rule’. Too often fairness rather than love, acceptance, mercy, forgiveness, or generosity is the measure by which we act and judge another person or life circumstances.
In Jesus’ time Judaism had reached a legalistic state, and the mentality was prevalent that salvation could and must be earned. There were many commands which must be fulfilled, and people were divided into two classes, the righteous who were on the road to salvation by fulfilling the commands, and the unrighteous, outcasts despised by those who kept the law. It was this slot-machine conception of God that Jesus opposed by his emphasis on love, for in love there is no calculation of duties, rights and obligations. God’s ways are not our ways. His ways look beyond our productivity, our appearance, our dress, our race or ethnicity, our accomplishments, our failures.
In today’s parable we, too, are invited to enter into a process where our perception of God is continually being transformed. Parables are similar to poetry. A good poem doesn’t try to define an experience as much as it tries to give us the experience. A poem tries to awaken our own seeing, hearing and knowing; it doesn’t give us the answer so much as offers us a process through which we can know for ourselves. To sit with this parable is to sit in the presence of generous Love. James Finley uses the image of a pebble falling down an underwater cliff. “There are little protrusions along this cliff and every so often, the stone lands on one and pauses in its descent. In the movements of the water, it rolls off and it continues on and on.” This image of the stone constantly being dislodged by the movements of the water is an image of our inner journey in which our perception of God is constantly being dislodged until we experience the infinite generosity of Infinite Love.
Adapted from various sources including Fr Kieran O’Mahony, Fr Pat Rogers. Fr Richard Rohr
1st Reading: Isaiah 55:6-9
Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Gospel: Matthew 20:1-16
Jesus said to his disciples: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the labourers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.’
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage.
Now when the first came they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”