In the Vineyard, our value is viewed in the eyes of God, not of MAN

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Author’s note:  This is the Homily from last week (just ran out of time to post until now). Sorry for the confusion

HOMILY FOR THE 25TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Readings:  Is. 55:6-9/Phil. 1:20-24,27

Psalm:  145:2-3,8-9,17-18

Gospel:  Mt. 20:1-16

 

When I was younger, I got picked on in school…a lot.  How I looked at the world was different than the others in my class and it got to the point that I was never included in any of the parties that they had or the trips that they went on and so on.  I stayed at my home out in the country because I knew I wasn’t wanted.  As I got older, that sentiment stayed with me that it became harder and harder to make friends to the point that I preferred my own company.  And I still do to some degree.  I often wondered though if I had not been picked on how my life would be different.

What I based these feelings on is due to how much value I place on my life and the lives of those around me.  It is in how much we value a person that shows how much we value ourselves.  While we place a value on ourselves and others, we should also look at by what standards we are in making that measurement.  Do we value a person in the eyes of MAN or in the eyes of God?  Whenever we measure the value of a person in the eyes of MAN, it is usually based on their industry; their ability to perform in a line of work for a long period of time.  When we hear the Gospel proclaimed today, we hear the value of each worker through the ears of MAN.  First, the landowner goes out and selects workers to work in his vineyard.  These are the ones who are awake early in the morning ready to work a full day to receive a full day’s wage.  When we see them they could be those who were born into the faith and have known nothing else during their life.  They tend to have a sense of privilege being first and expect that special blessings will come their way.

Those that the landowner finds at 9:00 are the ones that perhaps were not found at sunrise or slept in a bit that day.  There was nothing wrong with them, just that they didn’t get the prime jobs.  The landowner goes to them and puts them to work.  These would be the ones who come into the faith later in their lives, perhaps with the help of a loved one or were encouraged to come by themselves.  Either way, they enter the faith by their own choosing and put in just as much effort as those who started from the beginning and expect some blessings to come to them; not necessarily the same amount as those that came before, but just as fair.

Then here comes the ones who the landowner finds at 5:00.  Why were they still in the marketplace?  Why had no one hired them?  Were they unsavory?  Did they have the wrong clothes?  Were they foreigners?  For whatever reason, they were still left in the marketplace, in danger of not getting work so they can get the wages to feed their families.  And even when the owner does send them into the vineyard, what sort of a reception will they face?  Those who had been there will act as if this bunch is beneath their status, as if they did not belong there at all. Yet they were still chosen, like the ones who accepted the faith late in life, even at the moment of their last breath.  They are asking for anything sort of grace that, just perhaps, they can have a share of the blessings that are given.  This view is what the value of a person is in the eyes of MAN.  The vision of how much grace one receives is dependent upon the time they are members of the faith.

Whenever we see the value of a person in the eyes of God, however, the results are much different.  What the workers saw in each other, the landowner saw something more.  For he did not see time and effort as the reason for their pay at the end of the day, he saw their acceptance of his invitation to go into the vineyard and work for him.  For that, each one received his full blessings-their full day’s pay- for their work in the faith.  Those who had been there from the start-those who were born in the faith-will struggle to understand how those who have not “earned their stripes” because of their lack of time.  But what we forget is that this kind of thought is of MAN, not of God.  And when those who believe they do not deserve the amount of grace that God wants to give us, they become overwhelmed by his generosity.

On Thursday, Pope Francis in his homily spoke about a young man who was overwhelmed by the mercy that God had shown him.  Francis said he thought “it was interesting how many Catholics today seem to be scandalized when God shows mercy to someone.”[1]  This sentiment is reflected in the First Reading today from the Prophet Isaiah.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”  While we see the actions of others and wonder how God can give them the same grace that he gives us, God can only see their devotion to him and their fellow brothers and sister, no matter how long or how short that time is.  God gives his mercy to those who he sees as his children, whether we want to acknowledge them or not.  He sees all of us not just as members of a church or a faith, but as his children.  We are all children of God.

In order for us to stop seeing as MAN sees and to start understanding how God sees is the first step toward selflessness.  When the landowner explains to those who were first in the vineyard that they were not cheated of the wages that they were promised, that was their first step toward selflessness.  It was up to them to realize it.  Once they do, they will begin to understand why the path to happiness starts with not focusing on our wants.

When I previously spoke about St. Columba of Iona, I focused on his conversion from a selfish seeker of knowledge to a selfless servant of God.  When he lost everything that he desired, God showed him the grace he received as he “worked in the vineyard” starting his community in Scotland.  It was at this point that he wrote this prayer:

 

Almighty God,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

to me the least of saints,

to me allow that I may keep even the smallest door,

the farthest, darkest, coldest door,

the door that is least used, the stiffest door,

if only it be in Your house, O God,

that I can see Your glory afar,

and hear Your voice,

and know that I am with You,

O God.

Amen[2]

               It is not easy in our day and age to value a person in the eyes of God.  All of us need the help of those wiser than us to change our vision.  We read the Scriptures for guidance.  We look to the angels and the saints for inspiration. We enjoin ourselves with the Universal Church for support.  We take part in the Sacraments for strength. And yet through all that, if we cannot see the grace given to us that is also in each and everyone else, then our lives become meaningless.  To see the least of us as the equal of us takes courage and conversion.  Those days in school still visit me from time to time.  And in those times I tend to see myself better than those who bullied me.  But it is in those moments where I have to remind myself that even in those moments, God’s grace is the same in me as it is in them.  And from that thought, the true value of MAN is revealed.

MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU DO THIS WEEK

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Do you remember the last time you were bullied? How long ago was that? Does it still hurt?
  2. How do you fit in the vineyard? How has the work been so far?
  3. What are some things you can do to make sure we all have the same grace?

[1] Wooden, Cindy “Mercy scandalize those who don’t see their own sin, pope says at Mass” in Catholic News Service via www.crux.com (September 21, 2017).

[2] Sanna, Ellyn. “Me First,” in The Winged Man:  The Good News According to Matthew, McIntosh, Kenneth, ed.,

(Vestal, NY:  Anamchara Books, 2017)p. 231.

 

 

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