24th Ordinary Sunday (Note & Bulletin)

While I was in the Philippines, part of the Jesuit program was to be sent out into the remote Mountain Province to assist with the Novena before Christmas. All of the churches we were to be sent to also served even more remote villages. A priest may visit these small chapels only a few times a year. As we were waiting to hear to which town we would be sent, we all knew that one of us would receive the most difficult assignment. One of us would be sent not to a town or village, but to the jungle. Each day, with the assistance of locals, that Jesuit would have to walk great distances to the next village. In the morning he would say Mass, visit with the community and then head to the next chapel. It would be very physically demanding. You would think that we would all be praying not to receive this assignment. Most of us, however, wanted it. It became a sort of competition, a selection as to who was the strongest. Though I wanted to be chosen, I think the size of my belly disqualified me from serious consideration. When Fr Tim got the nod from our Superior, I remember feeling so jealous and even angry. In not choosing me, I felt judged, “passed over.” It was hard for me to allow another to be in the spotlight, to see someone else as “Number 1.” It can sometimes be challenging to see God’s embrace embracing all.

This Sunday, we have a Gospel that not only seems “unfair,” but is, in fact, unfair. By most of our standards, it is perfectly reasonable to expect that those who have worked more than others, should, in all justice, receive more. And yet, this is not how Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven. Rather, he tells his followers that at the end of the day, all receive the same. The Lord is trying to reveal to us the type of love the Father has for us. When I want to be “Number 1,” when I feel jealous or envious, I do so for one reason only – I doubt that the Father’s love is freely given. I feel I need to be “special,” to be the “golden” child in order to be noticed by God, to be loved by Him. Yet, each of us is fully loved and embraced in our own particular way. “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.’” The love God has for another never means God’s love is then somehow less for me. His embracing of another never means that there is no longer room for me. The beauty and goodness of another is never a challenge to our own. This week’s Gospel is a parable on God’s love. The love of God is a merciful love. It is merciful because it embraces all of us. It is also merciful because it embraces each of us in our whole being. The kingdom of heaven does not need to be achieved or earned; rather God’s love need only be accepted and welcomed into our hearts. God’s love for you is absolute, it knows no boundary. Our challenge then, is to believe this, welcome this in our hearts and to lives through this truth. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.”

God bless, and take care!

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