Google is actually a mathematical term, the number one followed by ten zeros. Why is Seven Up, the soft drink, not Six or Eight Up? Was there ever a real Dr. Pepper? There are questions which do have answers - some in physics, or history. “Why” is pretty close to the first word children learn. The first is “No!”and the second is “Mine!”. Answers to their “whys” do not seem to satisfy their little minds.
Some questions do have answers, but our adult minds desperately seek answers to much bigger questions than why blue-colored soap foams white. As long as we have experiences we will have questions. What we want is the security of certainty and ultimately control. Seeking for answers is a wonderful human hunger. Being angry or disillusioned by our not getting completion results from our arrogance. We hate the embarrassing encounters with the humbling discovery of our little minds.
The “quest” is the basis of our Christian faith and the gesture of extending our empty hands toward the reception of the Eucharistic presence of Jesus is a holy expression of our human poverty and God’s abundant accompaniment. As we “quest” along these days, we can pray with our ponderings and try to pray with smiles which change humiliations into celebrations of our truth. We are still children whether we like it or not.
The “scoundrel” and the “wicked” are those who have drifted away from their trust in the God Who seemingly, has left them while they are in captivity in Babylon. The previous sayings of God in this Book of Second Isaiah are full of reminders that the God of the Covenant is faithful and God’s mercy is forever.
The verses end with a reminder that God is not figure-out-able. While humans question and drift away when answers are not forthcoming, God is still the Seeker, the Finder, and the Ultimate Non-Answer, Answer.
The Gospel is a parable of apparent injustice. Our way is that we should be given more for doing more. The owner made a deal with the early-morning workers and a deal with the noon-timers and the evening crew. The deal is that all will be paid the same whether early or late. This is a parable about God’s historical relationship beginning with Abram and continuing through the prophets and presently with the disciples to whom the story is told. Jesus is telling His followers that God’s love for Israel is constant and everlasting. The disciples are the late-comers with whom Jesus continues the original “deal” or Covenant. The parable stresses the continuation of God’s, (the Owner’s) saving love for all the “Owner’s” people. The entire group of workers will work together, because the Owner has made an everlasting “deal” with them all.
This is an important parable for Matthew. In a poetic way it expresses the meaning of the Epiphany which begins the first part of Jesus’ public life. Salvation has come through the Jews, beginning with God’s call to Abram and Abram’s agreeing to the “Deal” of the Covenant. Jesus incarnates the “deal” by being the human presentation of that same eternal love of God.
It is so human of us to decide who belongs and whom we should exclude. Whom does God embrace and whom does God ignore. The comfort for us is twofold. We belong together under the bright umbrella of God’s seeking love and we are still called to go out into His “vineyard” to tend, cultivate and harvest. We do not have to “seek” the Lord; rather we are to “seek” the ways of the Lord’s calling and sending us. Abram listened to the God Who is “near” and abandoned his ways to walk God’s ways. The prophets listened and allowed God’s words to comfort and challenge on behalf of the God Who is “near”. The disciples are listening and being sent to continue establishing God’s kingdom which is opposed by the kingdoms of our creation.
The “last” and the “first” are not better than each other, but better for each other and for the tending of the vineyard. What all this means for us is to listen to the goodness of God within us, because we are people of the Covenant and meant to be sent to do who we are. God’s ways are as high as the sky, but the sky is raining His grace which will not return until the earth becomes the kingdom of heaven.
“You have laid down your precepts to be faithfully kept. May my footsteps be firm in keeping your commands.” Ps. 119, 4-5
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