Brothers and Sisters:
I asked the question last week in my letter to the Branch, whether we were open to the “surprises” of the Holy Spirit? As I write this, President and Mrs. Trump have just contracted the Covid 19 virus. What timing! Let us all join together in praying for their healing and speedy and complete recovery in Jesus name!
The Sunday Gospel has been on my heart from Mass a few weeks ago regarding Jesus’ parable of the Vineyard Owner and His need for workers to bring in the harvest from Matthew Chapter 20:
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing; and he said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.' And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder, saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' So the last will be first, and the first last." (Matthew 20:1-16, RSV-CE)
Notice that I highlighted a few words in the text of the Gospel above. There were essentially two ways that the Vineyard owner hired his laborers. The first way was that he made an “agreement” with them. I would assume there was a little negotiating back and forth before the deal was struck. Unfortunately, I often find myself in this position with the Lord. “Lord I will do this, and then You do that and then I will do this if you do that….” etc., etc., etc.; bargaining with the Lord to accomplish my will or, in my pride, what I think is His will.
The second way the landowner hired laborers, was that he promised- “I will give you whatever is right”. In other words, the laborers had to trust in the fairness and the word of the landowner.
Of course, the key to the parable comes at the end of the day when it was time to get paid for their labor. The landowner’s generosity became apparent to those that did not demand assurance and an agreement. They were rewarded for trusting the one that hired them to be generous and fair, earning far more than they ‘deserved’… which caused the laborers who struck a “deal” to see that an injustice had been done to them! I think we all can relate to this last group- “It’s not fair!”
Who ever said “fair” was a kingdom principle? All of us are praying for evil to be defeated in the world, for righteousness to reign, and it can appear at times that the enemy has the upper hand. Right before a very important election, the President gets sick! I didn’t agree to that Lord! That wasn’t part of the deal! You are supposed to answer our prayers exactly as we pray them! That’s the deal!
Brothers and Sisters, when we pray, do we make an agreement with the Lord for a certain outcome in future events, or do we trust the Lord to “do whatever is right”? The beautiful part of the parable above is that the last workers hired, by virtue of their trust and faith in the generosity of the landowner, received much more than they would have received had they negotiated the outcome! Prayer is a mystery (like everything about God). The Lord loves us so much that in His humility (Phil 2) he limits himself to be influenced by us and to have a relationship with each of us. As we pray, are they worried prayers, hoping for our will to be done?” Or do we pray with open hands, allowing the Lord to exceed our expectations and “surprise” is with His generosity? Prayer can seem like labor sometimes, particularly when we are fearful and anxious about the subject of our prayer.
Lord, help us to trust you. Give us the grace, to do our part, and the wisdom and revelation to allow you the freedom to accomplish Your will and to “do whatever is right”. In Jesus name! Amen.