Daily Reflection
September 19th, 1999
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality

The Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 55:6-9
Philippians 1:20-24, 27
Matthew 20:1-16

All three readings of this Sunday's liturgy really should be read while upside-down.  God's ways are so different from our own.

We hear the prophet Isaiah remind us that as high as the sky is above the earth, God's ways are above ours.

Paul, in our second reading, reflects his deep love for Jesus in such a way that he finds himself in an unusual dilemma.  For most of us, we love life and take great care to preserve it.  Paul isn't so sure whether he wants to go on living or die and be with Jesus.  Paul wants to be in Christ and with Christ and also play his part in forming and sustaining the early Church.

The gospel is the famous story where Jesus tells His disciples about the kingdom of heaven being a bit "upside-down".  Those who were hired first and worked the longest, get upset when they get their pay and it is what those who did not work as long, get the same pay.  It is the old story, "the first will be last and the last first."  Not fare!  The ways of God's love is merciful not just.

There is an embarrassing difference between love and approval.  We, from our earliest years, were taught that if we be good, or refrain from being bad, we would be rewarded with love.  Sorry, that is not love; it is being rewarded or approved.  God's ways are so different from our ways.  Jesus was telling his disciples that God loves those who had been faithfully living towards the kingdom from the early-covenant days and God loves those who have come to believe in Him as the new covenant.

Christianity is such an insult to our pragmatic, approval-based way of wanting to know who  we are and how we are doing.  The basic reflection for us has to do with this question; do we do good things to earn, win or manipulate God to love us, or do we accept God's love for us and do good things to reveal that love?  We are asked often by Jesus to reverse our ways of looking at ourselves.  We are upside-down righteous and the call is to love Christ and His ways so much that being upside-down seems downside-up and holy.  God is the giver and we are those who receive not what we deserve or earn, but what God chooses to give us, whether we are first or last, long-time or short-time faithful.  His ways are slowly to become our own.

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