25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
20th September 2020
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh
“Why be envious because I am generous?”
“My thoughts are not your thoughts.
My ways not your ways – it is the Lord who speaks”
These short sentences from our Reading from Isaiah pack a real punch of spiritual wisdom in just two lines. Simply the ways of God are different and we should resist the temptation to presume the mind of God.
The most common projection by many people is to ask – if the Divine is Almighty and omnipotent, good and forgiving, why does God allow so much evil, suffering, sickness and disaster befall on humanity? Because we cannot in truth offer a fulsome and credible answer many refuse to believe and reject any idea of God or the Divine.
Many writers and philosophers in the last century or so have grappled with these questions. As I said many just simply reject the idea of a personal God. Richard Dawkins has spoken vigorously of the “God Delusion”. Karl Marx spoke of “Religion as the opium of the people” (drug). Others like Albert Camus found the whole concept of faith as being absurd – indeed life itself is absurd it has no rhyme or reason.
All the time this thinking and writing was going on, two great social experiments were enacted, National Socialism in Germany and Communism in its many incarnations – both with horrific and catastrophic consequences for countless millions of people. In inspiration God was declared to be dead and human institutions took on the mantle of the divine. The individual person was sacrificed on the altar of the State.
Whatever the quantum of evil that prevails in the world to-day we can have no doubt so much of it is generated by man’s inhumanity to one another. For that we cannot and should not blame our Creator God.
While we know that the Corona Virus emerged from Wuhan in China – we really do not know if it is by accident or design. One way or the other it has spread like wild fire. In terms of reaction most people are responding very generously to the restrictions that are being requested of us.
However, there are people, a small percentage, who genuinely believe that the entire Covid 19 is a global conspiracy. Some believe it to be designed to destroy the Church by keeping people from coming to celebrate Mass together. Their genuine concern is that if people do not keep their habit and commitment to Sunday Mass they will stay away permanently. This is to suggest that our faith is just skin deep, and if it is, Covid or no Covid will not sustain it.
No one knows the impact Covid 19 will have on the Church worldwide – only time will tell. What we can be sure of is that the Church, like every human institution, will be changed by the experience of these months if not years. Though shaken by this utterly new social landscape we have not lost our nerve because of the firm anchor of faith in the reality of the invisible but tangible ways of God that continue to grace our lives with hope.
Consider the extraordinary goodness this difficult and demanding plague has evoked in the hearts of so many – this changes us for the better – it draws us out from ourselves to think of others in their need and fragility. It has moved us to a new concern for those most affected – to elderly especially because of the risk to their health. Equally, it has made us sensitive to the very young because they find it difficult to understand what is happening.
Great efforts are being made to mitigate its impact on education of a new generation. There is a deep concern for those prone to vulnerabilities in regard to their mental health. Though we did not wish or will the virus on anyone, in the bigger scheme of things it has given us a new experience of the Lord’s grace and goodness through the hearts of those around us.
In that regard a final word inspired by the Gospel theme for to-day which asks “Why be envious because I am generous?”. I consider to-days Gospel story to be a Gospel for Covid time.
Consider how society has managed to stay functioning despite a long period of lockdown and various other restrictions – it was possible because the Government made available from the get-go payments both to employees and employers to ensure that families and individuals could still have income whether they worked just a little or a lot – just like the workers in the vineyard. And to those who complained was the questioned posed “why be envious because I was generous?”
“My thoughts are not your thoughts
My ways are not your ways –
It is the Lord who speaks”