Reflection on the Daily Readings for 8/19/09 by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM
Lectionary # 421. Wed. Aug. 19,2009
Scripture: Judges 9:6-15. Psalm 21:2-18.104.22.168-7. Matthew 20:1-16.
Lectionary # 421:
Parables are fascinating and tantalizing. They often are difficult to
accept and understand but they always have a point they are making and it
usually is a call to reform or to change our mindset and prejudices. This
is the difficult work of “metanoia” so necessary for our spiritual growth.
Today both the Old Testament and the New Testament use the parable to bring
home to the people of their time a message from God and from God’s Son,
Jesus. Wisdom is involved in the one who is capable of giving such
wonderful ways of conversion and Jesus is the best when it comes to
speaking in parables. They are paradoxes that contain wit and a way of
“thinking outside the box.”
The parable in the Book of Judges given today is slanted toward the notion
that is growing among the people of Israel. They are leaning toward having
a king like other nations have. Those summoned to rule over the people are
represented by the different trees or bushes that produce fruit. There is
the wonderful olive tree that does not want to assume leadership because of
its rich oil; then comes the fig tree and it does not want to lose its
sweetness so it refuses the needy call of the people; then the grape vine
likewise says no. Finally, the rough and tough and non edible fruit
bearing buckhorn says it will take over and even set fire to the great
cedars of Lebanon if this takes place. Unfortunately, people choose the
latter and its warning comes through. Do we need an interpretation? We have
one right within Judges if we continue reading the next section where this
is interpreted for the listener and reader. What can this mean for us?
Does it have something to do with the way we control people even
subconsciously? Is that good leadership?
Then Jesus hits us with the parable that causes the listener the most
problems. We listen to it and think how unfair is the master who gives more
pay to the one who works just one hour while the others who labored in the
hot sun receive the same as this late comer. Most people are quite upset
with this parable. But God’s ways are not our ways. The agreed upon sum
was received by the ones who worked long and hard. The fact that the ones
who worked one hour received the same just does not jive with our way of
thinking about what is just and right. However, read in the context of the
history of salvation and the covenantal loving-kindness of God we may catch
the point and relate it to ourselves. Or we may turn to the parable of the
Prodigal son and the over generous attitude and behavior he has to the one
who squandered his inheritance to find that the compassionate love of God
is always there even for us in our last hours or when we return to God
through the sacrament of reconciliation or through our being led by grace
to be reconciled with a sister or brother whom we have offended or they
have offended us.
So whether we come late back to God or are just a rough buckhorn, God
is speaking to us through God-wisdom. The parable also helps us to unravel
the mystery of God. Job found this out as his wonderful story comes to an
end. So should we. Amen.