Paradigms, how we see things, are very powerful. One example is how we see what Jesus refers to as the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven. If we see it as something that happens after we die and heaven is where we go if we have been “good”, it doesn’t have much influence on how we live here and now. If we see it as something that is now, or as Jesus said, among or within us, it has much more of an impact on how we live every day. We try to be aware of good happening in and among us, and begin to see we have a certain responsibility to Iive as we believe, and be open to the Spirit who is always speaking.
In today’s Parable about the Landowner and how he paid his workers, Jesus is offering us insight about the ways of His, and our, Father, and what we think of as the Kingdom of God. For Jesus this kingdom is happening now, while for many of us it is heaven where we hope to go after we die. We all have our own images of heaven, and whatever our particular image is, it serves to reinforce our own ideas about many things, while making us the ins, and others who don’t think like we do, the outs. Jesus is telling us that His, and Our, Father is totally generous beyond anything we can imagine, and certainly does not see things as we do. We might have trouble believing that, and set up barriers to protect ourselves. We might see ourselves as the workers who labored all day, while seeing others who don’t think or live as we do as those who labored much less than we did. We might go so far as to think they are different, maybe even wrong. We don’t see them as God sees them.
The Kingdom of God happens when we choose to open ourselves to the Spirit in our life, who “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”, in other words what it means for us to live as Jesus’ disciples in our own circumstances, whatever they may be at any time.
The multi-faceted and multi-layered confusion and polarization these days over so many things is both a sign of the times we live in and a condition for how we are called to live the Gospel. Nothing has to change for us to respond to what Christ is calling us to do, because he calls us precisely in the midst and setting of whatever is going on when, or maybe if, we hear his call. Whether we choose to grow or to act is pretty much up to us.
We need to face the reality that we don’t have all the answers, and the answers we do have are to different questions, convenient questions. This bothers some folks who are used to the comfort and security and have trouble dealing with the wondering and questioning so prevalent today. The Spirit is always speaking and inviting us to learn and grow. Pope Francis has said that the old answers don’t seem to be working anymore, so how do we pray and live the Gospel in our time here and now? It’s about living God’s love for all of us together. Can we learn to listen to the Spirit without telling her what we want and expect her to say?
The Genesis Creation Stories tell us we are created in the image of God. As Christians we understand God to be a community of some sort, which we call Trinity – Father, Son, Spirit. Other traditions also see some sort of community, but describe it in different ways. “I am because we are”, is another such way. Basically, the traditions say we are created to live in relationship. This means we need to learn to be open, perhaps to see things from a new perspective or paradigm.
Local events might offer a current insight to the landowner and the laborers. Recently the Cleveland Diocese published its “Parish & School Policy on Issues of Sexuality and Gender Identity”. While the local reaction was to some extent predictable, there is an element to the response that can only be described as good. Good folks are coming together to address the issue and the pain it is causing to so many people, and they are doing it from the perspective of understanding the Gospel in a different way — how does what CLE is doing reflect what Jesus did? Many folks are acting out of a love of the Church and the Gospel and trying to understand their own resipsponsibility.
If we believe God is with us in everything, and the Spirit is reminding us of what it means to live as Jesus’ disciples, good is happening here. Pope Francis is moving the church towards being a synodal church, a church that listens to everybody. Perhaps this is what is beginning to happen in our diocese. There certainly are voices on all sides of this issue, most of whom have been respectful and civil. Chris Quinn of cleveland.com wrote recently “A masterclass in civil discourse by Cleveland Catholics”, something to be justly proud of. Let’s hope things stay this way. We all need to listen.
Also, there is a very good article in New Ways Ministry blog that calmly and respectfully quotes some of our local people with their concerns (https://www.newwaysministry.org/). All of us want to help our brothers and sisters who are hurting, and be part of our church being open to the Spirit. Maybe our local church can be an example of how to do this.
There are good folks on all sides of this issue. We might think about looking for the good that is happening in all this, and being part of it ourselves. How can we address the suffering, the fear? Everybody in our life right now has the right and need to be there, because in the providence of God we need each other’s gifts. Just sayin . . .