Reflection for Sunday, September 18, 2005: 25th week in Ordinary Time.
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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
PRE-PRAYERING | There is a current phrase which some people use to describe their inability to understand other people or the meaning of some event; it is "Go figure." The spirit of today's liturgy confronts us with the "upsidedownedness" of God. We love the results of simple logic: if this is true, then that will be true. We have it then and feel quite comfortable.|We are invited in today's readings to allow God to be different from our methods of figuring. We are called to let God be "other" so that we free God from the confines of logical predictability. It does take humility to be surprised and to not be imprisoned by our demanding expectations.|Trickery is not God's way; fooling with our minds is manipulation not relationship. We are urged to ponder how demanding our fearful selves are and how faith is the unlocking of the concrete vaults of our images and insecurity. We pray to receive God and God's terms.| REFLECTION | When some of us were younger and attending religion classes, inevitably a discussion would arise, when discussing the obligation of Sunday Mass, about how late can one come to Mass before you are considered too late. Those were great and highly spirited classes. The First Reading opens with some words which need to be rearranged or understood in Christian contexts.|We seek the Lord Who is seeking for us. We call to God Who is Finder of us. We feel for God's presence Who is always closer to us than we are to ourselves. This is different from how the prophet Isaiah understood God. God's ways are so different from our own. We are accustomed to seeking for what we want and calling those whom we desire to contact.|Through the covenants made by God's initiative with the Jewish people, they came to experience the God who kept them safe, blest and productive. In the social context in which we live, we learn the patterns of expectation. It is like learning to dance - one leads, the other follows. At least that is the way I learned it; very hard to know who is leading or even who is dancing with whom nowadays. My ways are not their ways, these days.Go figure!|The Gospel presents the justice of God and God's generosity as well. Matthew presents Jesus telling a story which has as its center the history of God's relationships with the Jewish people from Abraham, all through Jewish history and right up to the present moment of Christ's call.|Matthew is writing for the encouragement of His new followers. Those who were called early and worked so hard to receive their just payment find it hard to accept these late-comers who get the same payment. How late is too late?|Parables are dramatic of course and as with metaphors, they do limp. How just is God; how generous? This is not about "Better late than never." This parable is actually about the mystery of Jesus. This is not about "time," but about the infinite embrace which Jesus extends into timeless Nows. Response to Jesus is not quantifiable; God's love is not either. This parable is not about comparing the Jews' response of questioning the vineyard owner, with the five o'clockers, the newly converted, who enjoy the surprise.|The love of Jesus is not a payment or reward. There are some who struggle to live the virtues of Christianity and others are waiting to try them on at a later date. It is so natural for us to expect rewards and payments. A days pay for a day's labor is reasonable of course. Love is not reasonable. When preparing couples for marriage, I always ask both persons why they are marrying this person sitting so close. I love it when both fumble around for words and images. The fewer the reasons, the more I trust their love for each other. Love is blind, they say, and God's love, in this parable, was not watching the clock. Good reasons make good sense; good relationships do not always make sense.|We love exactness and clear expectations of just what do we have to do and for how long and what should be the product and of course what's the payoff. We do deal with the "Bottom-line Syndrome." What is in it for us considering what we put in to it. The truth is we are in debt and we, by ourselves, could never climb out of that pit. We are the saved from the pit of our own frustrational climbing. It does take great humility to be surprised early in the morning, at noon and at evening by the surprise of God's seeking, calling, finding, love for each of us. The "Kingdom of Heaven" which this parable tries to explain is not a reward ceremony at which comparisons are made by the size of the celestial trophy and crowns awarded. Those who labor long in the field of virtue do so not to win, but to reveal the goodness they experience through their relationship with God.|So how late is late? God the Seeker, the Finder does not watch the clock or wear a watch, but watches for the times that Love will surprise the called, sought for and found.|"I am the Savior of all the people, says the Lord. Whatever their troubles, I will answer their cry, and Antiphon
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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