21 September 2008 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 55, 6-9; Psalm 145; Phil 1, 20-27; Matthew 20, 1-16
The Book of Isaiah is divided into three parts: that of the Prophet Isaiah (742 BC, prophetic ministry in Jerusalem); Deutero-Isaiah (Babylonian Exile, Jerusalem is now destroyed); and Trito-Isaiah (Return to Jerusalem). Isaiah covers Chapter 1-39; Deutero-Isaiah has Chapters 40-55; Trito-Isaiah covers Chapters 56-66.
Taken from Deutero-Isaiah, the first reading is the conclusion of what they call, the “Book of Comfort.” Before the Exile, Israel especially the inhabitants of Jerusalem were prosperous, overly-confident, and material-minded. When they were exiled, the people were discouraged, dazed, and destitute. So Deuto-Isaiah saw that the people had to be comforted and consoled, not punished; their faith must be sustained, not further tried. And so He said, “Seek the Lord, while He may be found. Call to Him while He is still near.” Normally, the phrase, “Seek the Lord” was used to invite people to the Temple; now Deutero-Isaiah invites people to look for God elsewhere (since the Temple of Jerusalem is ruined). He said that though God is transcendent and hidden, He is near enough to be affected by our sins. We are His children, but expected to be mature enough to act energetically as adults.
We seek for lost items if they are important to us. They are objects that carry meaning or value. We don’t bother to look for items that do not matter. Our life is a constant search for what is valuable to our existence. We search for meaning in what we do. We long to find the truth about our past and our relationships. We look for answers to our endless questions. And just like any search, there are times when we look at places and couldn’t find them there. But the very fact, that we know that the item is not in certain places, narrows down the chances of finding the ‘pearl of great price’. We become closer to success. Great discoveries begin with little successes and more failures in fact. The important thing is that we begin the search.
The Gospel tells us that the landowner who personifies God seeks workers at different times of the day. Normally, the workers are sought at the beginning of the day, and salaries are paid as the day ends. But God seeks us out at different points in our lives. It is not just us who seek God, it is also God who looks for us.
The Book of Isaiah is Israel’s journey --- from Jerusalem to exile and then to the people’s return. Some people begin to own their faith early. Some went through a long struggle, often having periods of rebelliousness and alienation. These people could have been greatly hurt by events in their lives or influenced by the ideas of other people. Or some have witnessed terrible tragedies in the lives of others that anything about God is senseless. But some too have left faith and religion because they have discovered their power and productivity that they thought that they can live without God. Some thought that they can go through life without needing God, since they can provide for themselves. And some people return to God at the latter part of their lives. When they begin to discover that all their wealth and prestige cannot cure their illnesses or cannot solve their children’s problems. God is creative enough to find us. The Gospel tells us that even for latecomers, God accepts and rewards them the same way as He would the early birds. The reason is not about justice, but love and generosity.
Today, just three points. We seek God. God seeks us. In the end, we find each other. This is how we find meaning, truth and the answers in our lives.