There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end of it is destruction (Prov. 14:12).
A good number of us would always want things done in their way. In fact, “wanting it in my way” is one of the leading causes of most interpersonal, group, family, organizational and societal problems. The failure of our first parents (Adam and Eve) consists in their following a way that contradicted God’s way (Genesis 3). The same goes for the builders of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1ff), the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20-33;19) and the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).
Most people, from politicians to business moguls would do anything possible to see that they have their way. In fact, we often believe that our way is the best and for many, it is either their way or the highway. Unfortunately, some people exhibit this “my way mentality” when they approach God in prayer; they want God to do their will and not the will of God to manifest.
Today, the liturgy of the word begins with the prophet Isaiah, reminding us that God’s ways and thoughts are different from ours. The prophet thus advises us to forsake our crooked ways and thoughts and seek the Lord when we can find Him and when He is still within our reach.
A little insight into what constitutes God’s ways would help us in this reflection. The first thing we need to know is that God’s ways are mysterious; they are not predictable by human calculation, and they are deeper than we can conceive. St. Paul writing to Romans (11:33) says:
“How great are God’s riches! How deep are his wisdom and knowledge! Who can explain his decisions? Who can understand his ways?”
From our human standpoint, God is “unusual” in His ways. Many biblical instances still challenge the minds of many about God’s way of doing things; here are some of them:
- God destroys the world with the water of the flood (Genesis 7:1ff).
- God tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son (Genesis 22:1-2).
- God allows Jacob to take over Esau’s birthright (Genesis 27:1ff).
- God drives away other nations to settle the people of Israel in the promised land (Psalm 44:1-2; 78:54-55).
- God tells us to help our enemies (Prov. 25: 21-22; Romans 12:19-21).
- God tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44).
- God allows his Son to suffer and to die for our sins (1 John 4:10, Romans 4:25).
In the Gospel of today (Matthew 20:1-16a), our Lord Jesus Christ gives a Kingdom parable that goes forth to show God’s “unusual” ways. A man hires laborers to work in his vineyard at different times of the day. When the time comes for payment, he pays all of them the same amount, even the ones who joined the workforce an hour before the end of the working day.
In our “usual” human way of thinking, the landowner is unfair. But, wait, he is only fulfilling an agreement. The parable not only shows us that God’s ways are different from our ways, but it also tells us that God would always keep His promises to each person irrespective of others.
Furthermore, the parable tells us that God is timeless in His ways. This is unlike our human ways where we count more on the length of time. For God, it is not how long, but how well. In the parable, what is important to the landowner is not the time of joining the workforce (nine-to-five) but the willingness to work no matter the length of time.
Today, we have a very passionate call to reconsider how we cling to our ways at the detriment of God’s ways. Paying attention to God’s ways would be to our advantage. Following or not following God’s ways (thoughts) would bring the following upon us:
- Blessings: The word of God says “Blessed is anyone who fears the Lord and walks in His ways. (Psalm 128:1).
- Judgement: The prophet Ezekiel (18:24-30) says that God will judge us according to our ways.
- Divine protection: God says that if we would listen and walk in His ways, He would soon subdue our enemies and turn His hand against our adversaries (Psalm 81:11-14). Let us remember that our chief enemy is the devil (1 Peter 5:8).
- God’s anger: God says that He will be angry with the generation that goes astray in their hearts and does not know His ways (Psalm 95:10; Heb.3:8).
- The life in Christ. St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading (Phil.1:20c-24.27a) that life is Christ insofar as we conduct ourselves in a WAY worthy of the Gospel of Christ.
As we march into the new week, let us search our hearts to locate and discard those ways that are contrary to God’s ways. Our way of pride, anger, jealousy, unforgiveness, immorality, dishonesty and other vices. On the contrary, let us take up the ways of love, peace forgiveness, kindness and faith in God.
Have a great Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.