“My thoughts are not your thoughts. Nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:9)
The entire gospel today is a parable. The nature of the parable is to challenge the way we understand God and our place in the world. The parable today begins “the kingdom of heaven is like…” That has to be the key. We may have to find that the kingdom of heaven is something different than our customary way of seeing things. Do we feel there is a lack of justice in the story? I think most of do! I certainly react that way. God and the kingdom do not fit into our usual expectations, certainly not those of western society.
But some have accepted Jesus’ way as found in this story. Saint Benedict, in his sixth century Rule for Monasteries begins Chapter Thirty-four by quoting from the Acts of the Apostles and the practice of the early church. Benedict reads in the Acts, “Distribution was made to each one as he had need” (Acts 4:35). Benedict then comments, “By this we do not imply that there should be favoritism… but rather consideration for weaknesses. Whoever needs less should thank God and not be distressed, but whoever needs more should feel humble because of his weakness, not self-important because of kindness given to him. In this way all the members will be at peace”. (RB 34: 2-5). This is not the way of capitalism and may be closer to socialism. And it is contrary to the materialism of our age where self-importance is shown by what we buy, what we own, not who we are.
We also find some helpful commentary in the reading from the prophet Isaiah in today’s Mass. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is: 55:9). To truly pray and worship God demands a conversion of life and a constant journeying to find and follow the way of the Lord. I think the real problem is that we do not believe and accept that God bestows on all of us the grace and love and meaning of life that is universal and completely gratuitous. In fact we do not, in any possible way, earn God’s love and grace. We mainly have to let go of our thoughts, our ways, our obstacles to that love. God will give it to all who will accept it. The poor and neglected of the earth usually know this more than the affluent.