A NOTE FROM THE PASTOR
DEAR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST,
Over the past several weeks we have been exposed to several of the more challenging teachings of Jesus on the responsibilities of discipleship based on the love of God the Father.
You might recall that last weekend’s Gospel gave us the passage on how many times are we required to forgive another person. Recall that Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus’ response must have startled Peter when he said, “I say to you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
To illustrate this point Jesus tells them a parable about a king wanting to settle accounts with his servants. One of his debtors owes the king an incredible amount of money, which there is no way that this servant could ever repay. When the master orders that this man be sold, along with his wife, his children and property to repay what he owed, the debtor begs the master to give him time and he will pay him back. Realizing that this was impossible because the man owed him a huge amount of money, the master forgives the man his debt and lets him go free.
The parable continues with a fellow servant owing the man, whose debt was forgiven by his master, a much smaller amount of money asking for patience from his fellow servant. He refuses and has the man thrown in prison until he can pay back the loan.
Fellow servants see how this servant has been treated and go to the master to let him know. The master goes to the servant, to whom he forgave the huge amount, asking him shouldn’t he have treated his fellow servant with the same mercy and kindness that was extended to him. In anger, the master has the man placed in prison until he repays his debt, which in this instance would never happen as the debt was huge.
While you and I might focus our attention on the servants, I think that Jesus is trying to focus our attention on the merciful king. Ultimately, Jesus is teaching us, that his Father is full of mercy and that we as his disciples are to do the same. Why? Through his teaching and preaching Jesus is inaugurating the establishment of his Kingdom. As his disciples we are called to continue Jesus’ work by building the Kingdom of God here, right now. The fulfillment of that Kingdom will come at the return of Jesus.
This week’s Gospel passage focuses our attention upon the vineyard workers, some of whom worked in the vineyard all day for the agreeable day’s wages, while others worked only a portion of the day and were given the same wage. Many of us can probably relate to their frustration and anger when those who worked for only one hour in the coolness at the end of the day were given the same wage as those who worked a full twelve hours in the heat of the sun.
While you and I were probably focused on the treatment of the vineyard workers, Jesus tries to focus the audience’s attention on the vineyard owner, who represents God, the Father. Yes, the fact that all of the workers were given the same pay seems unfair and unjust. However, the lesson that Jesus is teaching is not to focus on the workers but, once again, the overwhelming generosity of God. We are to mirror God in our behavior towards each other and not by human standards.
I’m reminded of the words of the Lord’s Prayer, which speak to this end. “. . .thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. . ..” We tend to be too focused on heaven when our call as Jesus’ disciples is to continue his work of building the Kingdom of God through living our calling as Jesus’ disciples.
This is a great challenge but one that you and I must take seriously. We do this fortified by the Word of God, the teachings of the Church and through the power of the Holy Spirit, who has bestowed on us the spiritual gifts, natural skills and talents needed to do so.
Is this how you understand who you are as a baptized member of the Church and a present-day disciple of Jesus? Please bring this to prayer, reflecting on the great calling that you and I have been given. The spreading of the Gospel and the building of God’s Kingdom right here and right now depends on the response of you and me.