GOD’S WAYS: MYSTERIOUS AND MERCIFUL
“Let us make God in our own image…” No, wait a minute, that’s not how it goes! It is, in fact, the other way around. But so often our tendency is to think of God in our human terms and categories. The readings today highlight this point with great clarity: God defies human reasoning with his mysterious mercy.
Our first reading is a beautiful passage about seeking the Lord and turning to him for mercy. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways, says the Lord.” We frequently hear this quoted but I wonder how often we realize that it refers to God’s infinite mercy, which is far, far beyond our human conceptions. Let us not miss the point, however, that we must seek the Lord “while he may be found,” and call upon him “while he is near.” The door of mercy is open while we have life and breath, but obviously life on earth will end and we will have to come before the Lord and give an account of our stewardship. The Responsorial Psalm reinforces the closeness of God’s mercy to all who invoke him.
Have you ever heard an argument about today’s gospel of the workers hired at different times during the workday? I have. Invariably, there are those who don’t get the point of the parable and vigorously maintain that there is just something unfair about giving those workers hired at 5:00 p.m. the same pay as those who had been working since dawn. But the “pay” is eternal salvation and life with the Lord in heaven. No one really earns or deserves this; it is a free gift, based on the saving death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Some receive this gift early in life and never forfeit it. Others might stray from the Lord but then return, like the Prodigal Son, later in life – perhaps even on their deathbed! The story is all about God’s generosity and mercy – far above our human reasoning and calculation.
“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” I can’t read this passage without thinking of Fr. Emile Lafranz, who quoted it often in the month before he passed over to the Lord. He identified with St. Paul who said, “I long to depart this life and be with Christ.” We are here to get out of here, as Bishop David Toups has reminded us. “Only conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
We have to be continually reminded of a very basic fact: God is God and we are not! His ways and thoughts are infinitely high above our human ways and thoughts. He doesn’t request or require our advice or counsel. I have often mused on the fact that God isn’t “democratic” in the way that we commonly use the term. God doesn’t depend on polls or focus groups to determine policy. “God is good to all and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:9). And we can all thank God for that!