Isaiah 55: 6-9; Resp Ps. 144(145):2-3, 8-9, 17-18;
Philippians 1:20-24, 28; Matthew 20:1-16
The first reading really captures the message of the Gospel and sets the tone beautifully:
"my thoughts are not your thoughts,
my ways not your ways--it is the Lord who speaks.
as my ways are above your ways,
my thoughts above your thoughts."
Jesus tells his disciples a parable about the kingdom of heaven. He says it is like a landowner who seeks to hire hands to work in his vineyard gathering the grapes in. He seems to be in a bit of a bind to do it quickly (before the terrible storm hits, maybe) so after the first hire, he goes out to the byway and collects other workers and he repeats this several times. In fact, the last bunch were hired one hour before the job was finished. He has his aide go out to distribute the pay. The man gives each one a denarius. ( This was the customary day's wage at that time.)
There's rumbling and complaints to the landowner by those earliest workers who felt they deserved more because they worked harder and longer. They were denying the landowner his unique right to be generous with everyone.
How utterly human! Jealously and envy are always ready to rear ugly heads whenever we feel "cheated" in ways small and large. It reminds me of the little dramas when my children were small. Whenever I was portioning out a piece of pie, cake, or ice cream, I could see them edging to the end of their chairs. Who was going to get the biggest piece? Jokingly, I'd tell them to put the tape measures back in their eyes, everyone will receive a proper piece. In real life it is not so easy to calm the troubled person who feels he/she is not getting the right share in life.
All of us know people who seem to have a charmed life: good health, abundant wealth, friends, homes, great jobs, and so on. And we also know some who seems to have crosses a plenty. The former may think, "I am a good person that is why God blesses me so much."
Another may look at his circumstances differently, "I don't know why I'm being punished so much, God, " God does not work that way, that's a human response.
God certainly does not have to measure up to our way of thinking or doing things. God has a mind so incomprehensible compared to ours, we cannot even begin to appreciate the magnitude. So what appears to us a tragedy may be gift. Just think, in the time before Jesus was born, a young woman found pregnant before marriage would have been ostracized, disowned and maybe killed. How tragic for Mary. Yet the result was not tragic, but the greatest event of all time: Jesus Christ was born and fulfilled God's promise to redeem us.
How fitting and well-chosen is the Psalm 144. It is filled with words of encouragement and truth.
"The Lord is kind and full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love.
How good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures.
He is close to all who call upon him, who call on him from their hearts."
"The Lord is close to all who call him," is a wonderful prayer to say frequently during our busy days and times of stress, to remind ourselves that God is in charge and reminds us to let go of trying to be in control. We need not worry who will be the greatest in the Kingdom, that is already taken care of by the Father.
Catherine LaDisa, Associate