We are hearing a succession of Parables or the teaching stories of Jesus, over these current Sundays of the Year. This week - the Parable of the workers in the vineyard - gives us a lesson in God’s sense of justice. His justice often turns our notions of justice on their head! Some peoples idea of justice is focused intensively on the self and so will always ask: Why did that person get more than I did? Why have I not been sufficiently rewarded? And in our relationship with God an awful lot of religious energy goes into perceived injustice. This theme is everywhere in the Bible and the literature of the world: Why do wicked people seem to prosper? And why do good people suffer? Why aren’t sinners properly punished for their crimes? Lots of bad sinners seem to live a rather successful life. Why are the Saints so often ignored and reviled. Why don’t hardworking people get what they deserve? Or if you press it further: why are some people more beautiful, more intelligent, more popular than others? These questions run through everyones mind at some point. Things seem to be unfair, which makes us seem like little children vis-a-vis God: crying out to him when we have this sense of offended justice. And that is the attitude of the workers in the Parable that Jesus tells. Before God, we can never presume we are owed anything. Rather we are in a stance of complete dependency upon God. Every moment of every day we receive, being, life, breath, movement, everything is from God; all of us are beggars before Him. That’s why we have to shift our focus from ourselves to the Great Giver who presides over the whole of the cosmos, who knows everything we do and everything we need. He therefore knows how to properly apportion His gifts in a way that perhaps will never make complete sense to us.
Most of us have a problem with forgiveness; we think we are ready to forgive, yet hold our grievances still. The servant in Jesus’ comparison in the Parable read at Mass, is wicked. He received mercy beyond comparison yet cannot forgive his fellow servant a small debt. This forgiven servant comes to his fellow servant who owes him a mere three months labor. Having received great mercy, what does he show to his fellow servant?
This week ninety of us - Priests, Deacons and Seminarians - will be travelling with our Bishop to Ars in France. (For reasons of security we will go on two separate flights; the Bishop on one and the Vicar General on another, just in case!) Ars is the village where St John Vianney was the reluctant Parish Priest between the years 1818-1859. Our Bishop will lead us in days of spiritual recollection in this, our Centenary Year. It is the first time such a pilgrimage has been undertaken by the Clergy of our Diocese. Our hope is that, close to the Curé of Ars, we will absorb the spirit of his priestly life especially in his devotion to the Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; his dedication to the Sacrament of Penance (he spent many hours each day in the Confessional) and his tireless preaching and teaching of his people as he led them along the path to Heaven. Please pray for us, that we may be filled in these days with that same fervour!