As we look through the readings for this week we see themes of a call to repentance and trust in the overwhelming grace of God. Surely, God’s ways are not our ways nor are God’s thoughts our thoughts. Over and over again we are overwhelmed with the greatness of God’s mercy and love.
Our first reading from Second Isaiah falls into two parts. The first (Is 55:6-7) contains the words of the Prophet. The second (Is 55:8-9) has the words of the Lord as is noticeable from the first person form of address and from the use of the word my in the distinction between my ways andyour ways.
Second Isaiah was an exilic prophet whose office involved helping God’s people to understand that simply going through the external motions of religious observance did not fulfill the command to love the Lord with their whole heart, their whole soul, and all their might. (Dt 6:4) The repentance that was needed was to turn to the Lord at the very depth of their being with their whole heart. If they did that God would pardon them in the abundance of his mercy and love. (Is 55:7)
Just before our passage is a hymn of joy in messianic language that projects a forward glance to Israel’s forthcoming restoration to its own land. Some ideas can be noted in connection with our passage. On one hand, God’s saving grace is pure gift; it cannot be bought. Only the Lord can give it. (Is 55:1-3) On another, God’s promise to David (2 Sam 7) continues in the everlasting covenant in God’s steadfast and sure love. (Is 55:3)
In our Gospel reading the freedom of the owner of the vineyard to do whatever he pleased with his money reminds us again of his decision to move beyond the demands of ordinary agreement and to be generous beyond common expectations. In response to those who were hired first, and thus expected more, the sense of the master’s reply in the Greek text is, “Do you begrudge my generosity?” Some readers may be familiar with the literal rendering, “Is your eye evil because I am good?” In either case the superabundant generosity of the master befuddled the comprehension of the workers. The master’s thinking was just not like theirs. He was, after all, allowed to do what he wanted with what belonged to him. (Mt 20:15) Do we not see a connection here with the Lord’s overwhelming mercy in our first reading, and the master’s generosity in the Gospel reading?
In the second reading from the letter to the Philippians Paul addressed the issues of whether he would be released from prison and live, or whether he would be put to death. In either case he would in some way have been released and have been with Christ. Ultimately, the matter was in God’s hands; his life belonged entirely to the Lord. (Phil 1:21-24)
With the Psalmist we can praise the Lord whose compassion and love is over all. He is just in his ways and kind in all his doings. (Ps 145)
©Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.