Grapes upon Grapes and Amazing Grace
Gospel Reflection for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
When I reflected on this passage, I thought of a conversation I recently had with my supervisor at work. I was consulting him about a business decision I was making. While we were talking, I recognized that my focus was on what I was getting. He challenged me to consider what I could give.
I will admit that was a convicting pill to swallow. My supervisor is not only Catholic in name, but has proven again and again that He is Catholic in his practice of daily life. The story of the workers in the vineyard encourages me in my workplace as its owned by this generous leader who consistently communicates the best intentions for each of my co-workers.
It's easy to follow a leader you trust is looking out for your best. In the parable, God is the generous landowner. He took care of each and every person in the story. Rather than truly seeing the full day's wage in their hands, each set of eyes gazed at everyone else's payment. In their differing situations, each worker needed a full days wage. This wage likely paid for food on the table for them and their families. The landowner provided that for them no matter what time they began their work.
When I think of working in a vineyard, I think of grapes. When I think of grapes, I think of grape pie, wine, and jelly. We can't enjoy any of those delicious foods without going through a process that requires patience. This reality of work is acknowledged in the Holy Mass before the wine is consecrated into the Blood of Christ. The priest receives the wine and says,
"Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink."
So, not only does "grapes" sound like "grace," the imagery of grapes also points to the grace of God. Grace can be a noun or a verb:
n. courteous goodwill
v. do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one's presence
My name -- Anne -- actually means "full of grace." Time and time again, I recognize God's goodness in my life even when I don't feel worthy or deserving. As I carry my crosses, I can grumble in the vineyard like those in the parable when I don't recognize that God is enough. God is greater than any payment, success, attention, or honor I seek. God graces us with His presence in our lives AND showers down graces we didn't even know we needed.
One of the most beautiful lines of the Prayer of St. Francis is, "It is in giving that we receive." Jesus lived this out in the flesh. His one goal was to bring glory to the Father and He did just that as He spread out His arms on the Cross offering His whole heart and body for the salvation of the world. Generosity is the most aggressive weapon against The Enemy.
The best leaders and performers exude a generosity of spirit. Their personalities and vulnerabilities shine through in authentic and bold ways so connection can be made. Generosity is inspiring and contagious. When we feel seen, known, and loved, we want to have the opportunity to do the same for someone else. This is counter cultural. The world keeps score and counts costs. God wins by giving and forgiving. Salvation is not so much about the payment anymore since that has been paid once and for all. God wants to save us each day through quality time with Him.
In the movie Rudy, there's a timeless line that says, "I know two things in life: There is a God and I'm not Him." We are not God and never will be. We will never understand His thoughts and His ways, because they are above our own (Isaiah 55: 1st reading this week!). Rather than complaining about what God is doing in other people's lives, we can ask God what He's doing in our own. Rather than looking at what we have not yet been given, we can focus on what we have.
Do we have a scarcity mindset thinking that God only has so much to give? Or, do we have an abundance mindset believing that there are boundless graces from Our Father?
My heart was moved with both sorrow and awe when I heard Jesus ask the disciples, "Are you envious because I am generous?" I recognized that I can put God in a box sometimes and not allow Him to love me and others how He wants to. I also smiled with Him as He is the giver of ALL good gifts. I want to remind myself every day to love the Giver more than the gifts. Spending time in the vineyard with Him is a dream in itself. He'll take care of the payment.
When have we been envious of others' blessings?
Have we ever wished that God gave us something in particular instead of someone else?
Do we live life as a beloved child or as a neglected orphan?
How can we put someone else first today?
What is one small way that we can graciously put ourselves last today?