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25th Sunday in ordinary time: Standing idle

Today’s readings: Isaiah 55, 6-9; Philippians 1, 20-24.27; Matthew 20, 1-16.

God’s generosity makes us furious. It turns upside down our calculations, our way of seeing things and our prejudices. In the Gospel this comes out very clear in the way Jesus speaks and behaves. But not only in the Gospel. The entire Scripture reveals to us a God who is radically different from the one of our logic and of our theologies.

For God, time seems never to run out. His ways, as the prophet Isaiah writes, are not our ways, and even our way of thinking is different. We pepper God’s generosity and mercy with so many ifs and buts; we present it always as conditional to people. And yet His limitless presence and availability go beyond all we can think of.

Isaiah’s reading says today: “Seek the Lord while He is still to be found”. As long as there is the dimmest desire in the heart and the least space in the mind that allow the genuine search for the truth, then there remains the possibility of finding what makes life full. This truth is narratively given in the Gospel today through the parable of the landowner who, from dawn to the 11th hour, so late in the day, sends workers to his vineyard.

“Standing idle” in today’s gospel does not mean unemployed. It means choosing to close in on oneself, to render idle the heart from the love it can give, to live an unproductive life that gives no returns. The gospel we are revisiting these Sundays offers variations on one important theme, which is the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God in the perception of many may be located where God is, perhaps in heaven or what we imagine heaven to be.

But God’s kingdom is the world transformed. It is the world healed from the distortions many times we inflict on it through our abuse of the environment, through the choices that may be dehumanising rather than enhancing what is human, and through our idleness that blocks the possibility in our lives to let God’s imprint on whatever exists and whatever we do become evident.

The parable narrative of the owner of the vineyard calling at practically all hours of the day is indicative of how God’s presence in our lives is by nature a calling in itself. God’s voice is always a still voice that fails to be captured not in the noisiness of life but in idleness, in the choices we make to be indifferent to the needs out there, to be desensitised.

God’s voice is a calling that realigns our doing in fullness with our being. When there is no alignment between our doing and our being we lose connection with our inner self, we confuse the inner voice with the outer noises, we become divided selves with little strength to lead a productive life that is worth living.

The vineyard is the natural place where we belong, it is where we are supposed to be. We were not created to stand idle, to live passively, to live to work and be distracted from our true calling. Because we may stand idle even while we have hassled lives. The worst to be avoided in life is to be productive in work and professionally, and yet unproductive where growth in wisdom and inner strength is concerned.

What ultimately makes life truly productive is what nourishes our true being. Being simply happy with our routines may put us in the standing idle mode, impoverishing the true meaning of our being.

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