Many of us are familiar with this Sunday’s gospel, Matthew 20:1-16, about the laborers of the “eleventh hour”(the hours here are measured starting at about 6:00 am, dawn), the laborers who are paid the same wage for one hour of work as the laborers who worked a full day. Clearly, this is not a lesson in business! If I had been the first employee, I would have been (rightly) upset! The fact that the employer has the right, in the end, to pay as he wills (it being his money) does not make it fair. It simply means that he is free to do as he wills.
Bear in mind that this is a parable, which does not mean direct logic. Somehow, Jesus makes use of this parable about labor and “usual” wages to reveal something of the kingdom of heaven, and thus, of our relationship with God, which, strictly speaking, is not about labor and wages!
Now, we are, in a sense, laborers in the Lord’s vineyard. Through us, the Lord works to harvest, to grow his reign. But we are all late; and we are all, in one way or another, ill-equipped.
And what is our wage for such unique labor? God Himself! Our wage is not really a wage, but a gratuitous gift that cannot be measured. We are all thus over-“paid”! In fact, we labor in the Lord’s vineyard because we have been loved. And so, we have been prepaid! And, as we labor in the Lord’s vineyard, we are loved. And when we labor poorly—i.e. often—we are still paid, God still loves us. Think about it: each one of us who comes forward to receive Communion receives the Lord, the same “wage”, no matter where we may be in life, no matter how “late” we may be. The effects in our life, of course, depend on our cooperation, but, initially, the same gift. Talk about “job” security! Talk about relationship security.
Yours in the Lord of the harvest,
This Sunday is Holy Cross Day (moved from its September 14 date so that we can celebrate together). In some circles, we specify the "exaltation of the Holy Cross". Exalting the Holy Cross is, really, exalting Jesus who pours forth Himself in love on the Cross. The Cross-despite its exteriorly tragic aspect, and beyond it being an event in time-is a mystery of eternal love. This is why Jesus can say, "when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself". To speak of drawing or attraction is to speak of love.
St. Leo the Great (pope from 440-461) says that "the Cross is the source of all blessings, the cause of all graces. Through the Cross, we receive strength from weakness, glory from dishonor, life from death."
This Sunday, we gather, in a special way, around the Crucified and Glorified One, our Friend and Savior, Jesus. Like those who gazed upon the serpent of bronze fashioned by Moses in the desert and were healed (Numbers 21), we gaze upon, stand in awe of, and adore our Lord. In so doing, we allow Him to take hold of and heal us.
“How do I know what is right?!?” In a world of conflicting messages, this question is very real. We are often told in response, “follow your heart”. This is a legitimate response, in which there is wisdom. It is helpful, however, to articulate what this means in the fullest and deepest sense.
The “heart center”, an expression often used in Yogic circles, is what? Is it my inner world of feelings? Is it my ability to imagine? What exactly is it? I will dare to say that it is neither of these. As human beings, we are, of course, an organic whole, and so everything in us is connected: feelings to imagination to body to mind… But, distinctions do help, so to see more clearly.
St. Thomas Aquinas, +1274 (whom I have been known to quote!), defines love in the following way, and therein articulates what the “heart center” is: “To love someone is nothing else than to will good to that person” (Summa Theologica Ia Q. 20 art. 2 corpus). Our “heart center” is our will, the incredible capacity that we have interiorly to move ourselves, by choice, towards another person, beyond what we feel or imagine. This means, of course, that we can always love. With certain individuals, we may emotionally experience an aversion (an intense movement away—which we traditionally call “hatred”), but we still retain some measure of freedom to “will good to that person”. If we do this, we are on the right track.
Add to this, the work of the Holy Spirit in us, who respectfully and mysteriously inserts Him/Herself at this level (“that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God”—Romans 8:16). The Holy Spirit sustains our “heart center” in ways we know not, enabling us to respond whole-heartedly to St. Paul’s exhortation (today’s second reading: Romans 13): “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law”.
With you, beseeching the Holy Spirit,
We sometimes forget or even struggle to believe in the power of intercessory prayer, of the privilege we have of offering one another, of offering our world to God. God is always moved by our hope for others and God always responds. The response may not be what we envision. Such is God's prerogative and God's wisdom! The response is always better than what we envision, for it is always one of divine love. The ways of divine love, however, surpass us: "as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways". (Isaiah 55:9)
Speaking of divine love, allow me to appeal to one of our forbears in the Faith:Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (modern-day Algeria) from 396 to 430, when he died from a fever. He is a preeminent Doctor of the Church. And, he is, by the way, the patron saint of brewers, printers, and theologians. This simple affirmation, whose expression is attributed to him, says it all. St. Augustine journeys with us, that we might discover this truth more and more.
To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances.
We must be careful, of course, how we understand "romance". It is not the emotional "in-burst" of infatuation or of a passionate love affair. This love rises from the quiet depths of the heart.
When we intercede, we can be sure that those for whom we pray "fall in love" with God. We nudge them, without their knowledge, into the Embrace for which they and we all long. Let us pray for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, for the victims of terrorism and famine in our world, for restraint in North Korea, for continued healing after the incidents in Charlottesville, for our parish and all our loved ones.
Come quickly Lord, bring your peace, heal us, forgive us, renew us.
Yours in divine love,
From the desk of the Rector