I love how the Holy Spirit seems to work in themes within our group (and notably in my own world). Maybe this is the case in your life? Anyway around it, we must have more work to do on increasing our fortitude, as not only was it in the gospel for this upcoming Sunday’s liturgy, but it was in our case study, in our hearts, and in the “atmosphere”.
As one hurricane after another wages war on the Caribbean Islands and coastal United States, and earthquakes ravage parts of Mexico, an unleashing of the greatest weapon of mass destruction, according to St. Theresa of Calcutta, has been set upon the culture of our world as well.
Saint Theresa of Calcutta, formerly “Mother Theresa” as she was known before her beatification, made this remarkable conclusion:
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
There is a mystical experience that always seems takes place when we come together as Christians. Today we gathered and caught up, requesting prayers for those we know who are suffering. We found, not surprisingly, that many of the situations we related shared the same root problem. Many souls we knew of, who were despairing, and by way of different circumstances in their lives, were lead to believe (by none other than the one who uses loneliness as his greatest weapon) that there was nothing left to live for, and ended their own earthly lives. Seemingly an epidemic of despair, a few cases were those of our own military, who had seen desperate situations fighting for our own freedoms; others were youth, who seemed to feel there was no other option in escaping the mental suffering they were experiencing. In any case, we recognize that among grieving the great natural disasters occurring in the world this week, we cannot help but also recognize the great deconstruction of souls coming abruptly to despair.
As we pondered these situations, which became our “natural” case studies, we entered into the gospel reading for this coming Sunday, and felt the Holy Spirit take us deeper.
Matthew Chapter 20:1-16
The Workers in the Vineyard.1 “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ 5 So they went off. [And] he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. 6 Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ 7 They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ 8 When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ 9 When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. 10 So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ 13 He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you.[d]Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? 15 [Or] am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Our reflections lead us to the following points:
- Like the people in our “natural” case study; these people in the gospel are perhaps just waiting on something in with an idle nature; someone to hire them to work; an opportunity? Perhaps they don’t even know what they are waiting on, like many lonely souls who despair today. But God is waiting on us; He has the fullness of His “wage” waiting for anyone who turns toward Him. It was heard on Catholic Answers the other day that even just a glance toward God can result in His salvation. His mercy is so endless and His love for us so great. We just need to glance His direction.
- This passage has always been difficult because of the tendency to look upon the situation humanly from the point of the first workers hired; how unfair it seems to work all day in the heat, only to have someone come in at the last hour and make the same amount of money. The problem is that the money or the “wage” is God’s mercy and love; and if we look at this story from the Landowner’s point of view, going out, trying to find someone who can do the work; He is just in His “wages” and seeking. Understanding that the ones we love may be the last to join the “forces” of the workers (those who make it into Heaven?) we would be thrilled to see them enter the gates of paradise and not begrudge that mercy or love for them in the least.
- We must realize that some of those we know and even love may be like the last workers in the field. They may be the “last” to be “hired”. It may take their entire lives to seek God and we must not give up hope for that. We should never write anyone “off”.
- Maybe our own young people and teenagers seem to be in such a crisis of hope because their value is wrapped up in what others think. They feel they are valued only when they are accepted, and social media and technology makes it all too easy for them to feel belittled or devalued. How many times do I look at someone’s faults so quickly, and forget to look deeper into what God values in them, and ask Him for his view of that person, and even of myself when I tend to put value on what others think of me?
The importance in overcoming our sinful tendencies, as one of our members phrased it, is to form a habit, then form the virtue. Because we, as a group, are focusing our efforts on developing these habits with our weekly encounters, we too hope to form virtues that lead ourselves into becoming better examples of Christ’s love in the world.
This week, we see the virtue of HOPE as our theological virtue evident in the cases and the gospel. We understand it by means of the human virtue of FORTITUDE; to keep going with strength in what we know to be true and right in seeking God’s Kingdom.
SPIRITUAL RESOLUTION: One saint said that we can turn a bad thought into an act of faith or reparation by making the sign of the cross or speaking aloud the Holy Name Of Jesus as soon as it happens. (We wrote down on a sticky note and will keep in a common place like the kitchen, car steering wheel, mirror, etc. where we can be reminded to do this throughout the day and week.)
APOSTOLIC RESOLUTION: We feel we need to do an act of outreach to our youth, especially teenagers, especially the ones away at college, to remind them that God has a call on their life and they have GREAT PURPOSE in the world, so as not to lose hope in what the world may tell them about themselves or what “loneliness” tries to take root in their hearts. We are sending packages (which we will assemble next week) with a card encouraging them to share the hope of Christ to someone else, and to share some kindness and encouragement with them as well.
(Credit and thanks to Biblegateway.com)