Table of Contents
Economics and Faith
I see someone here with a University of Notre Dame shirt (over) there. At least I presume it’s Notre Dame. Maybe it’s Notre Dame High School or something like that. But anyway, there was a Dominican who taught for a long time at the University of Notre Dame, who made the observation that the only academic discipline that required more faith than theology was economics. I suspect we know that’s true. They’re always making predictions about this or that, and sometimes they’re right. I hope nobody here’s an economist.
But the temptation can be to read this story in our modern eyes like an economist. This could seem like a lawsuit waiting to happen. Some work for this long hour and they get paid a certain wage. Others work for not so much. They get the same wage. But the story is not about good economic policy.
If it were, I would have some things to say about Jesus in terms of effort and opportunity and motivation. But this isn’t that kind of story. It’s really a story that helps to illustrate what’s going on during the time of Jesus.
Namely, that there are those Pharisees who really believe that Jewish life is about keeping oneself separate from everyone else, because contact with those who were not Jewish were unclean, and so the idea was to preserve the deep sense of faith and belief so that it didn’t get tarnished by anything else.
The problem was, in the time of Jesus, people who were not Jewish, or Jewish, but unclean, were coming to hear Jesus and were finding themselves deeply touched by His word and accepting of His message. They were growing in faith.
But they hadn’t been the ones who had been faithful for a long time. They hadn’t been the ones who had been following the rules. They were the ones who heard Jesus and accepted his invitation. And so when we talk about the landowner who is generous, and perhaps even more so the envy that could be present at the generosity of the landowner, we’re talking about the the generosity of God.
And I suspect if you’re like me, there are some people that you would rather God not be so generous to. We probably have a little list in our mind of certain types of people that really, okay, we understand God has mercy and God’s all-loving, but look at the way they live their life. They can’t possibly be saved by God.
And yet God is generous. And not only is God generous, He’s generous all the time. Notice what the landowner did in his story. He was inviting people to come to his vineyard at all times of the day to work on his behalf. This is a challenge, because sometimes people accept the faith after having lived a not-so-pleasant life.
And yet, some of the greatest saints in the Church were similar. Think of St. Augustine, for example. Augustine did little to live the life of faith, for much of his life. Despite the deep and constant prayers of his mother, he spent much of his life living a life of pleasure away from God. Were God not generous in salvation, we could have lost arguably one of the greatest theologians in the history of the entire church.
And not only his contribution in terms of theology, but his contribution in terms of the way in which we believe society should be structured. The task for us is to take the first line of the first reading to heart. “Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call to him while he is near.”
We need to be people who are always searching for God in our lives. Now why? Because we know that we’re pretty fragile at the end of the day. We know that in our lives there can be a lot of brokenness. We can feel alone. We can feel that the difficulties we’ve been given, whether it’s illness or aging or difficulty at work or not really being given the chance we have or the death of people that we love and care about, that that can be just too much.
And we can be tempted to stop seeking. We can be tempted to stop calling. But the message of God, the invitation of God, is that He is always and everywhere in our presence. We say that here at CBC, over and over and over again, multiple times every day. Let us remember we are in the holy presence of God.
And whether it’s at the very beginning of the day or close to the very end of the day, God remains present, inviting us to a deeper life of salvation. And so, where is it that God is calling you to find Him by your seeking? Where is it that God wants you to call upon Him in your life? In what ways do you need the loving and healing presence of Jesus to come close to you? And what are you willing to do to seek?
Does Jesus invite you, for example, to make a little bit of time each day for prayer? Or a little bit of time each day to read the Scriptures? Or a little bit of time each day maybe to spend it in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament somewhere? Maybe it is in considering to seek God in service that is available all around us. There are all kinds of opportunities to help others. And sometimes we can seek God best and we can call upon Him best when we see the suffering of others.
And we do something to be that landowner that invites them to a better way of life. hToday ear the voice and the words and the invitation of God. Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call Him while He is near. And whether you are very close to God or have not been close to God at all, let today’s gospel be a profound and powerful message that God invites you to salvation always, anytime and everywhere.
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