Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 55:6-9: Philippians 1:20-24; Matthew 20:1-16
Saint John Baptist de la Salle/Saint Stephen September 24, 2023
Today's Scripture made my thoughts return to the middle 1990s when I had returned to the seminary to complete a Master of Arts degree in History. My instructor asked me to write a paper on the 55th chapter of Isaiah; a part of that passage was read to us today. I concluded my paper by offering a quote, “It is easier to get God wrong than right. Much easier. At least without the grace of God.” The professor did not like what I had written, he said, “I had gotten it all wrong,” and he gave me a poor grade. The quote I had chosen came from President Lincoln, just 41 days before he was assassinated, and the end of the war, which had torn our country apart.
The people of the North were at war with the people of the South, while the people of the South were at war with the people of the North. At that time our entire country was over 90% Christian, all people believed and prayed to the same God for victory. These prayers could not be answered, and they have never been answered to this day. It’s a lot like this in our country today. Half of our country believes they are right and the other half wrong, but I say, “let us judge not, that we ourselves will not be judged.” Yes, it is easier to get God wrong than right, much easier. Sr. Janis wrote a reflection for this Sunday, she said, “The prophet Isaiah sets the tone for today’s Word, God’s ways are not our ways. God's thoughts are not our thoughts. Thanks be to God.” And yes, Sr. Janis is right, “Yes, thanks be to God that God is not fair, at least in the way we understand fairness.” Nor is today’s Gospel about what is fair or not fair or what is right or not right. It’s understandable if this story causes us to feel frustrated and angry about the outcome. The United Auto Workers, Hollywood Writers and Actors are all complaining about what is fair and right.
There is a big difference in saying life isn’t fair, and it certainly isn’t, and God is not fair. Because it’s true as Sr. Janis wrote, “God is not fair, but God is better than fair, generous beyond measure, rich in grace and mercy and full of compassion.” The bottom line is this: Our God does not owe us anything, we owe God everything. But so often I get this all wrong. I sit around grumbling and complaining about how so many people in our country have gotten things wrong, that God is on their side and not on ours. My sinfulness and my faults are always before me, yet the more I read the Scriptures the more I feel I understand. Yes, we are all sinful, and yes, we all so often get so much wrong. Our pride and our arrogance weigh us down. But if we at least attempt to move forward, the Scriptures tell us, God is waiting.
Listen again to Isaiah: "Seek the Lord while God may be found, call God while God is near. Let the scoundrels forsake their way, and the wicked their thoughts; let us turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God, who is generous in forgiving." For God’s heart is full of compassion for God's people. God sees us waiting, sees us struggling to find our place. God knows that we are worried, and God is aware of the burdens we are carrying. However, God has called us out of darkness and into the light. What a privilege it is to be chosen by God. And being chosen by God, is that not a privilege in itself? Let us be thankful that God is not fair but always right.