A Cycle – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time 20
Mt. Mt. 20:1-16
God told us through the prophet Isiah, “…my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.” Yet the apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit said, “…we have received…the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Cor.2:12). So, it is possible for us to move from our current way of thinking to a new spiritual insightful way of thinking that comes from a source other than ourselves. In fact, Paul affirms that fact when he said, “…we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).
Just a few weeks ago we heard Jesus chastise Peter telling him he is not thinking in the manner of God but in the manner of humans. We can take the scriptures literally or we can take them as God intended them. They were given to us to reveal the heart of God and for the Spirit to open them for us so our hearts and minds would be open to a new way of living out our faith. If we just could grasp how desperately God desires to pour mercy and love upon us, we would realize how our attempts are to appease God puts a barrier between us and him rather than build a bridge between us.
One would think that the more time we can spend doing spiritual and corporal works the more we would put on the mind of Christ, but that kind of thinking is erroneous. Years ago, I met a vowed Brother who was constantly in the monastery chapel praying. He had a daily routine which included mass, reading the office, saying ten rosaries, and a novena. Yet he was so afraid of losing God’s approval he believed every minute away from anything spiritual was sin. He was constantly in the confessional and lived a life thinking he was not good enough for God’s blessings. This was a man who vowed to live the life of a brother believing its discipline would protect him from sin and yet he never knew a minute of the peace that God offers all of us.
In that prophecy of Isiah, God is not telling us our humanity is unchangeable therefore we cannot overcome our ability to put on the mind of Christ. We fail to understand sin does not block the graces God wishes to lavish upon us and receiving that grace is the first step to a renewed mind and heart. That lesson is shown to us throughout the scriptures. Paul the Apostle is a prime example of how God’s forgiveness does not depend on our actions but on His desire to forgive. Saul of Tarsus sinned in ways we know would condemn any of us. But God not only ignored his sin but changed Paul’s mind and his heart. That is why Paul was able to understanding the work of the Spirit to change our minds and hearts and say, “Christ will be glorified in his (Paul’s) body” Phi 1:20) because it is God’s provision for us to live a life pleasing to God by the transforming work of the Holy spirit within each of us.
Our real issue is we just cannot comprehend how God’s forgiveness can be gained without some form of penalty being exacted. We believe wrong must be punished. We believe truly evil people do not deserve what we so hard are trying to attain, eternal life. Do not try to tell me you believe a murderer, a rapist, a pedophile, an abuser, con-artist, and any other evil sin we see on the nightly news must not pay a penalty for what they have done. Society has taught us, and we do believe there must be a price paid by those who commit such heinous crimes. That is our human nature telling us, reinforcing our belief there must be a penalty paid before we can gain forgiveness.
The parable of the worker in the vineyard is God destroying the concept of reward and punishment. This parable gives us a wonderful view of the mind of God and provides a path for us to understand the importance of our receiving and offering forgiveness. If we are to become disciples, we must allow the Spirit to help us to put on the mind of Christ so we can help others understand God’s forgiveness only requires us to allow it to happen within us. There are far too many of us who are like Brother James, who believe we must work hard to please God instead of allowing God to make our life one that responds to forgiveness rather than one of avoiding God’s punishment.
Without going over the entire workday given us in this parable, just imagine those workers who went out to the vineyard at dawn. Since the parable has the owner of the vineyard going out the second time at 9 am and every three hours after that we can safely assume the first workers were in the vineyard at dawn. They agreed to work for the usual wage and expected to work for 12 hours. Every worker picked up at 9 am, noon, 3 pm all agreed to work to 6 pm for the same hourly wage. However, when those who worked only three hours got 12 hours of pay, those who labored all day became excited because they thought they would get paid more than the agreed wage. In fact, they expected to get paid four times more than those who worked three hours.
When they did not get anymore than what was agreed, they cry out “it is not fair.” That is our same complaint when it comes to God’s forgiveness. We just do not understand God’s desire that none should perish, and all should come to know the love and merch of God. There are many more stories like this one in the scriptures that show us how God desires us to understand his heart and to put on that same mind of Christ ourselves. The woman caught in adultery never asks for forgiveness but received it. The paralyzed man lowered down from the roof never asks for his sins to be forgiven, yet they were. The woman at the well has lived a life unworthy of any reward and yet Jesus overlooks that life and offers her a new life.
I could go on, but you get the point. If we are going to put on the mind of Christ, we must allow ourselves to be touched by the one who knows all our sins and yet offers to remove them from us and remembers them no more. We are offered a chance to work in the vineyard of God not for a reward but to use our gifts to spread the good news of God’s mercy and love. We are offered a chance to change our focus from doing things we believe will please God to living a life guided by the Holy Spirit. When we follow the Spirits promptings, we are living according to God’s plan not ours.
The parable of the vineyard shows us it is never too late to show up and work for the kingdom of God or to receive what he desires us most to receive, his generous mercy.