A reflection on the Mass readings for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
By: Sharon Nelsen
The Lord recycles truth in our lives; always giving us new thoughts, new words, new ways to think, speak and to act on old truths. Today, as I read from Isaiah 55.7-8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord,” I smiled—yet again the Lord had recycled that truth in my life.
When I was an RCIA companion in our parish several years ago, I was inspired to write this prayer, a prayer I knew was inspired by the Holy Spirit for it flowed from my pen and needed little editing. After I wrote it down, I named it, “A Prayer for Continued Growth.”
Blessed Lord, God of Heaven and earth,
Draw me into right relationship with You:
May Your Thoughts become my thoughts
May Your Ways become my ways
May Your Words become my words
I invite You to touch and heal all that is wounded
Within my mind
Within my heart
Within my spirit
Set me free from any false beliefs I hold
In my thoughts
In my habits
In my values
Fill me with Jesus, Your Way, Your Truth, Your Life
In my relationship with You
In my relationship with others
In my relationship with self
Open my lips that my mouth may proclaim Your Wondrous Deeds, praising You now and forever. Amen. Sharon Nelsen, April 18, 2012
This past week was a week full of conflicts and so I asked the members of our faith-sharing group to pray over me. As they prayed, the prayer for continued growth came to my mind. I realized that I had something deep within me that perceived the words as conflictual, as if God and I were at odds in our thoughts, words and ways; we were on a collision course. In an understanding that can only come from the Holy Spirit, I realized that God, who calls us into partnership, is not in conflict with us. Rather, God reassures us that the seed we plant, the leaven we work into the dough of our lives are beginnings; our thoughts, words and ways are not necessarily “wrong.” They are by nature, our good human nature, limited.
When God says, “I will complete the work I have begun in you,” God reveals that my good thoughts, good words, and good ways are materials for God’s thoughts, words, and ways, which are cosmic, while mine are very local. God welcomes those beginnings in us and longs to receive them so that He can do even greater works with them.
The Gospel reading from Matthew 20.1-16a illustrates the point clearly: The laborers, who were hired at the end of the day, received the same wage as those who had been hired at the beginning of the day, express their thoughts about the justice of it all: “These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.” (Matthew 20.12)
God’s way, as landowner in the parable, is generosity, a generosity that hovers high above human justice, leavening the dough of Divine Justice with cosmic compassion. Have you ever stood on a corner and waited for a truck to come by to pick you up and take you out to the job site so you could earn a day’s wage and feed your family? Recently, as I drove through a section of downtown Omaha around 8:00 in the morning, I saw four Hispanic men standing on a corner, waiting. It reminded me of my high school days in Los Angeles, when I first saw a crowd of Hispanic men clothed for labor, standing along a whole block of sidewalk. I asked my Dad why they were there. He replied that they were “day laborers” waiting to be hired. When we drove by the same area hours later, there were still many men waiting. And if we had driven by even later, we would have seen men still waiting.
What does it take to stand in the day’s heat and wait, wondering if your family will have food that night, or if the rent can be paid, or if the water and light bills can be paid?
Would you rather be standing idle, struggling with fearful thoughts, or laboring with others, knowing you can provide what is needed for those entrusted to you?
Help us grow, Lord, into your way, a way that urges us to generous compassion. May we sow our tiny seeds with hope, entrusting the growth to Your Ways which are “As high as the heavens are above the earth.” (Isaiah 55.9)