Sunday, September 21, 2008

Deep and Wide

September 21, 2008, Year A

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflection on the Readings

By Dennis Hankins

Theme:  Deep and Wide

God is generous in his love.

I confess.  It is difficult to say this.  It is probably difficult for anyone to make this admission.  Here goes.  I would begrudge the generosity of the owner of the vineyard. 

Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required. (Luke 12:48) And we have been given much.  Our attitude should be enlarged as we observe how graciously and generously God demonstrates his love to all. At least it should.  The issue is not about who got in first and who finally got in.  At play here is 'will we call upon the Lord while he is near.'  And will we 'rejoice with those who rejoice.'  

No one was more astonished at the goodness of the vineyard owner than those who clocked in at one hour before quitting time.  No one should have been more pleased with the owners goodness than those who had been 'bearing the heat of the day.'  How much we need the wonder of the kingdom.  As we press into its ways and power, we learn deeply that we are 'not of this world.'  Nor are 'our ways his ways' or our 'thoughts his thoughts.' 

Until the day dawns and the 'day star' arises in our hearts we are to 'seek first the kingdom of heaven.'  In the invisible recesses of our heart we are to receive the kingdom that cannot be shaken.  Jesus revealed a kingdom that does not measure time or resources or rewards the way this world does.  Those who felt threatened by Jesus' coming perceived his kingdom to be measured in political and military power.  Some have in recent times promoted a theology of liberation and sought to be a Saul (political) rather than a Samuel (prophet) in their understanding of the kingdom of heaven.  However, the kingdom of heaven is advanced by prayer and reception of the gracious forgiveness of God.  Good citizenship results from such a focus and promotes an active participation in the governance of the country as we seek to advance the policies that defend the dignity of all people.

Rooted and grounded in love, we are to 'comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length, and height and depth' of the love of God.  This is a livelong endeavor.  And when we have finished our course here below, we will only have just begun to grasp the generosity of God.  The revealing question of the vineyard owner is, "Do you begrudge my generosity?"  Oh, that we may embrace the grandeur of the kingdom in our hearts.  What a privilege it is to have had a lifetime to yield our hearts to the power and purpose of the kingdom of God.  But even the repentant thief on the cross was given 'an abundant entrance' into the kingdom.  

Growing in grace is to grow into the 'mind of Christ.'  Christ is formed in us as we bring all the powers of our being into obedience to the law of Christ.  When we love God with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our strength, there in the depths of our life do we encounter grace and love that is greater than all of our sin.  The law of Christ is love.  This is the premier law of the Kingdom.  It is deep and wide. To live this way is to know Christ.  And to die this way is gain.  The conduct of our life is to be in a way that is worthy of the gospel of Christ.  A restricted and punitive view of the goodness of the kingdom of life is to believe that the Lord is like us.  But he isn't like us.  Or better put, we are not like him.  We are called to be like him.  We are invited to receive his deep and generous offer to enter into 'joy that is unspeakable and full of glory.'  

Let us receive this kingdom with the faith of a little child.  Expectantly let us open our hearts and our hands like a little child who yields himself to the love of his mother and father.  May we yield to this deep and wide possibility of knowing him whom to know is life eternal to all who enter the vineyard of his kingdom.  

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, I ask you to enlarge my heart.  May your mercy not only abound to me but to all those I love and work with.  And at the end of this life may I enter completely into the everlasting joy of your deep and wide unfathomable love.


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