“Seek the Lord while He may be found, call Him while He is near.” What a clarion call for our time. Yet what are we looking for. Do we seek a God whom we have fashioned in our own image and likeness? Isaiah tells us that our God is different, very different, from us. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways says the Lord.” This difference is borne out in today’s Gospel parable. Let me say at the very beginning that this story has no bearing on Catholic Social Teaching, nothing to say about justice, nothing about unions or the rights of labor. Jesus says He is talking about the kingdom of God. And yet, I’ll bet that we are all unsettled by the parable because we think in terms of justice. Don’t we all instinctively say that people who work all day should be paid more than people who work for only an hour? Even if we get out of the mindset of our own daily work and think of this parable in terms of our own death and judgment, don’t we all (especially if we are cradle Catholics) think of ourselves in the first category of workers? We’ve always worshipped God. We’ve always tried to keep the commandments. Oh, we may have messed up once or twice, maybe more even; but we always went to confession and been forgiven. Maybe, just maybe, we are not thinking the way that God thinks.
There is a story about a man who went to bed one night, fell asleep, and had a nightmare. The nightmare was this: he had died and was making his way to the pearly gates. He got on the line and found himself directly behind Mother Theresa. He thought to himself, “This is a cinch. St. Peter will be so dazzled by her goodness he won’t even bother to check my credentials. I’ll get right in by holding onto her sari. Eventually she is standing right before St. Peter and he is there immediately behind her. “Name?” “Theresa.” “Where are you from?” “Calcutta.” St. Peter rifles through his papers. Finally, he looks down at Mother Theresa and says, “You haven’t done enough good.” And the man wakes up in a sweat.
Another person said, “In heaven there will be three surprises. Surprise #1 Who is there. Surprise #2 Who is not there. Surprise #3 I’m there.
As I said earlier, we all tend to put ourselves in that first category of workers or maybe the second. Do we want to compare ourselves to St. Paul as he describes his own dilemma in our second reading. “I yearn to die and be with my Lord. But I also yearn to stay here so I can work more for you.” God’s way is not our way, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. If we honestly assess our lives, maybe we should see ourselves as the ones who worked only the one hour. We would be so grateful for the divine generosity we sure don’t want to hear the words of Jesus near the end of the parable “Are you envious because I am generous?” God gives of His richness with unlimited generosity. God gives us the Eucharist as an example of generosity, as a challenge to our generosity and as the food that will enable our generosity. Let us all try to make our ways God’s way.