25th Sunday A What is God Like?
The abbot asked the monks, ‘When do we know day has begun?’ A monk said it began when the sun rose. The abbot shook his head. A second monk said it began when you saw people rushing to work. The abbot said no. “Tell us,” the monks cried. He said, “It begins when you look into the face of people and see there your brothers and sisters.”
God is always present but not always apparent. There are some thirty or more parables in the gospels, and in each Jesus offers a hint as to what life in the kingdom of God is like. Our gospel this week of the landowner who hired day workers and promised to pay each the same amount of money, irrespective of how many hours’ work each one did, is a metaphor of the giftedness and unmerited nature of God’s kingdom, God’s love and God’s grace.
Because one worker arrived an hour before the end of work and received the same pay as those who had worked all day long, there was annoyance at the landowner. As he explains his position, we think of ourselves having to deal with a friend’s jealousy, a mother reassuring the child who feels left out. This parable is a story of faith: we are not dealing with a trade union delegation, but with a mother saying to her child, “I have given you all my love.” It is a contemplative moment of prayer when God offers us the grace to be freed of jealousy and resentment. It’s a time to relax in the assurance that God loves us unconditionally.
We are offered in the beginning the image of a hiring landowner. It invites us to look at ourselves as hired workers, people who earn the goodwill of the landowner by doing “a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” Many good people appear to be stuck at this level of relationship to God. The parable takes a radical turn when the landowner calls one of the workers “my friend.” The parable is telling us we are not so much God’s servants as his friends – “I shall not call you servants anymore…I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my father” – JOHN 15, 15.
God is not a hirer of servants but a friend, one who loves his people free gratis and for nothing. We have freely chosen to serve because we know we are loved – JOHN 3, 16. God is always present, but not always apparent. It’s up to us to make his compassion and love apparent in our families and faith communities. “Do I magnify the Lord? Do I enlarge him, proclaiming him in a way that is clear and unmistakable, with tenderness and mercy and generosity and love? Or do I keep him inscrutible, illegible and small?” asks journalist Greg Kandra.
Fr QQ – 09/17/2020