Hey, is that fair?

Let me be honest: every now and then, Jesus says something that rubs me the wrong way.  I can feel that resistance inside myself that says, I don’t want to hear that right now. Could we just talk about that some other time? 

This Sunday’s readings are one of those times. We hear the gospel parable about the workers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16). The property owner goes out early in the morning to find people to work in the vineyard.  Once the early birds are working, the owner goes out several times during the day to find still more workers standing around idle (read that: can’t find work), so he hires these other workers as well.

The Late-arriving Workers by JESUS MAFA*

At the end of the day, the early-bird workers are paid the full day’s wages.  But then a surprising thing happens:  the other workers are also paid a full day’s wages, despite the fact they worked fewer hours.

Naturally, the early-bird workers, who toiled long hours in the hot sun, are jealous of the Johnny-come-lately workers. They complain to the owner, who responds, in effect, Hey, what’s the big deal? Didn’t I give you the full day wages I promised you, for your full day of work? Can’t I be generous with my own money if I want, and help these other men feed their families tonight if I want to? 

The parable ends with Jesus saying these now-famous words:

the last will be first, and the first will be last…

The point of the parable is not about how much a person is paid per hour, but rather about the generous love of God. Jesus is speaking about the kingdom of heaven, in which God’s love and mercy are abundant and infinite.  In the kingdom of heaven, the newly converted Christian takes his or her place at the table along side those who followed Christ their whole lives. Those who are of “little account” in the world will have a great place at the heavenly table.

I think some of us are reluctant to dig deeper into this parable because it challenges our status quo.  We who are the “early-bird Christians” might secretly feel we are better than the newly converted Christian.  The people whose families have been in the United States for generations secretly (or not so secretly) despise the new Americans. Those who are heterosexual may have trouble accepting people who are in same-sex relationships. People working long hours may resent those who receive government assistance.

Jesus’ parable reminds us today that God’s love is far more abundant and far-reaching than we can imagine. We may be jealous of others, or secretly think we are better than others–and therefore more deserving of God’s attention and love–but to this Jesus says we are wrong.  God loves those “other people” just as much as God loves me or you. God’s generosity, mercy, and compassion are without end and for all people–much more than we can begin to fathom.

And if God is loving, merciful, and generous towards all people, doesn’t that mean those of us who claim to follow Christ should do the same?

 

*Artwork credit:
JESUS MAFA. The Late-arriving Workers, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.  http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48296 [retrieved September 22, 2017].

 

Thought for the day…on God’s love

God’s love is so immense and infinite… beyond our wildest imagination. Here’s a quote I ran into:

Divine love can rake a dunghill--Spurgeon  [Words on image: “Divine love can rake a dunghill, and find a diamond!” –C.H. Spurgeon]

Hope you have a good day and a great week…and that you find God’s divine love in amazing places as you go about your “ordinary” tasks of living.

Until next time, Amen! 

What Jesus says about love and discipleship

Words of Jesus on love/compassion:

37 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--Jesus in John 13 34-35

Most of us have heard this many times, but this message is still fresh, still needed, in our world today.

It’s worth going back and reading again–and creating your own prayer about what Jesus says–right now….

Until next time, Amen! 

St. John of the Cross: Love Unites

Here is a jewel of a quote on compassion:

36 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--St John of the Cross(click on image to enlarge)

 During this Lent, I’ve learned that quality quotes or passages from spiritual writers can offer great prayer-starters. This has led to something I call D.E.A.P. (Drop Everything And Pray) on my public Facebook page.   I see something interesting or inspiring and I just write a prayer about it, spontaneously, right then.  I don’t worry about polishing the words much or “being a writer” (that is, fixating on making it sound elegant or brilliant or whatever), because it’s a prayer to God. I can just be myself before God and share the prayer moment with anyone else who wants to pray on Facebook.

Here’s the prayer I wrote this morning as I was thinking about St. John of the Cross’ quote above. I was also thinking about how it is Lent and Palm Sunday tomorrow as I was writing/praying.

Will you pray with me?

O Lord,

dreamstimefree_140915--Milogu--Dreamstime Stock Photos--Free - smaller with sig Cropped CopyI know you long to pour your love
into our hearts, like a pitcher of water
pouring into a glass on the table.
Yet, sometimes I fill my glass with other stuff:
sand and glitter and even sticky tar.
Help me to set aside all that other gunk
and open my heart more fully
to the inflow of your pure, flowing
water of love… so much so that
the water both nourishes me
and overflows to nourish others, too–
abundantly so–for you, O Lord,
are the living water of Love. 

Until next time, Amen! 

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin on the energies of love

Today’s quote on compassion comes from French philosopher, scientist, and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:

35 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

It is an interesting image, to think of love as a powerful energy. Energy “brings good things to life,” as an old General Electric commercial said. The wind, waves, tides, and gravity all exhibit a dynamic movement. They are not “stuck” or “dead” like a rock. So it is, that love moves, love creates, love transforms our lives.

And so it is, that when we truly discover the energies of love–and harness them for real, as a culture, as a planet–it will be as big a transformation as the discovery of fire.

Until next time, Amen! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pope John XXII quote about the love of Christ

Today’s Lenten quote about love/compassion:

34 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--Pope John XXIII

This one sentence is so packed with meaning for me that I hardly know how to write about it in one entry–but here goes:

The word “animated” makes me think about how Christ’s love, poured into our hearts, gives great spiritual life to the soul. It is like the breath of God, breathing life into the inanimate clay of the first human. On our own, we are often as if “dead” or “unconscious”–so to speak–compared to the dynamic life that Christ brings to our souls  (whole persons).

In Christian tradition, the “love of Christ” is often strongly associated with the Holy Spirit. So it is that I sometimes think of this “love of Christ” as the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts.  The Holy Spirit is what Risen Christ breathed into the disciples:

When [Jesus] had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit…”  (John 20:22)

The Holy Spirit is what “animates” us with the love of Christ. I think Pope John XXIII (now Saint John XXIII) was fully aware that the Holy Spirit draws people together by the power of love. This is the kind of unity that is built on empathy for one another. This is the kind of “love one another” we need today in our world–a world filled with electronic messages of hate.

Hate divides and conquers others. Love believes in the dignity of other humans and reaches out to share and embrace–and that provides a kind of loving unity.

Hate tears down and destroys. Love creates, builds up, increases life.

The Holy Spirit that God pours into our hearts is the Spirit of Love, and it is this Spirit who will unite us more fully in this life, and unite us completely in heaven.

Until next time, Amen! 

Francis de Sales quote about love

Today’s quote deals with how love draws us toward what is truly good:

33 Lent--Week 5--Compassion--Francis de Sales

I’m thinking that this “advancement” is a word referring to growth. When we love others, our souls move in a positive, good direction. Love draws us into a better way of living.

“Effusion” refers to giving off something like a liquid or scent. It’s an “outpouring” of sorts. Love has a quality of pouring out itself, overflowing to others.  (Makes me think of the sermon on Sunday when the pastor poured water into a glass that eventually filled and overflowed. When we allow God’s love to enter our hearts, the love fills us, and then overflows into loving others, giving God’s love to others.)

There is much to ponder about love–and much to put into practice. Love is one of those things that is ever-growing, ever-expanding… if only we agree to allow love to do its work.

Until next time, Amen!