A magnanimous heart: Is this the meaning of the parable of the workers in the vineyard, where some come early and others late in the day, and all receive the same wage from the landowner? Or is it the ‘mystery’ of God’s ways, which we cannot comprehend and yet stirs us to ponder, to stretch to understand the mind and heart of God?
The magnanimity of God, and the inscrutability of God indeed turns our linear way of thinking upside down and inside out: ‘for God’s ways are not our ways’. What or how is God judging or evaluating in this parable? Certainly, we are being asked to expand our limited horizon out of which we view and apprehend reality. The landowner goes out five times inviting workers to the vineyard…Justice is done for those who came early for they agreed to the wage…Still they bitterly complain when those who came late and even the last who hardly had sweat dripping down received the same wage. This human response by those who came early is understandable and we most likely would have the same reply…yes, the grumbling will be right there for us as well. But will we change? Will we be open to converting our way of understanding to God’s way and stretch to see what God’s word of life is longing to communicate.
Fr. John Donahue, a scripture scholar, wrote that here is an instance where we see “the power of the parables to orient by disorienting” (Hearing the Word of God, p.111). As we follow Jesus, with openness to his way, his truth, and his life, we will find our inner orientation at times being disoriented! Before God’s ways and thoughts, we encounter mystery. The Divine Other does not use our human categories of logic and analysis. Rather the ‘logic’ of the gospel is paradoxical. Still, we know this one thing, rather our faith reminds us of this one thing, that love is the nature of God and the generosity of God flows out of this immense love.
How do we grow into the mind and heart of God? ‘Reform your lives’, change your way of thinking…Convert from an I-It perspective to the perspective of I-Thou which grace bestows as we pray to see, to understand the Divine ways. Divine justice rules in this parable: no one is treated unjustly. God’s goodness stretches beyond our category of what is fair and not fair. In the words of Fr. John Donahue: “The parable summons us to believe that God’s justice played out in this world is not limited by human conceptions of strict mathematical judgment, where reward is in proportion to effort or merit” (p.112). God’s goodness transcends that way of thinking. God lavishes his goodness on everyone, latecomers and those who came early. Should we not be grateful that my sister or brother has received this abundance of grace, even if we have labored so much harder and longer? And will there not be times when we are the latecomers and suddenly find ourselves receiving the gratuitous grace of God for simply showing up? Indeed, there are the times when we too behold God’s magnanimous heart, God’s inscrutable ways when we receive grace and blessing for doing very little except the willingness to go to the vineyard of the Lord, where the laborers are few. Let us rejoice and be grateful for the latecomers…for the reign of God needs us all, early arrivals and late arrivals as well. Let us be in solidarity with one another as we work to build up God’s body of love on this earth.
“How rich are the depths of God—how deep his wisdom and knowledge—and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods” (Rm 11:33).
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess