Today’s scriptures encourage us to rejoice for “the Lord is kind and full of compassion.”
“He is slow to anger,” “abounding in love.” God is very different to you and I. The first reading illustrates this “for my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways.”
I recently saw the movie “Dead Man Walking” which I think highlights this difference. It is a movie about a prisoner on death row, who has committed the most heinous crime. The parents of the brutally murdered want to watch his execution. They are understandably very hurt and angry. The inmate befriends a nun, but he is not yet prepared to take responsibility for his crimes, and he even denies any wrong doing. The families of the murdered are angry with the nun for visiting him. The nun understands that God’s mercy is for everyone, and that the inmate is a very wounded and confused man. She also knows that he must reconcile himself with God before he dies by taking responsibility for what he has done. She perseveres continuing to show love, kindness and compassion. She gives the man hope, and as in today’s Gospel, at the eleventh hour he admits his crime. He is ready to enter the landowner’s vineyard. He subsequently seeks forgiveness from the victim’s parents. He has had an encounter with God’s mercy, and this transforms him. This in turn helps others to heal too. One of the parents goes to his funeral.
Today’s Gospel shows how we can be selfish and begrudge others. We see things in a limited way: through our own eyes, and experiences. ONLY God sees objectively. He alone knows people’s motivations and individual circumstances. The labourers in the Gospel, who had been hired late in the day, told the landowner that they were idle because no one had “hired them.” It wasn’t necessarily their fault. Things are never black and white. None of us are perfect, and none of us are free from making mistakes. The saints are the ones who understand this best. They are most in tune their own sinfulness, and consequently, they are the last to judge others. St John of the Cross compares us to a window. Only when the sun shines on the window do we see the marks, and defects. Likewise, when we come closer to God, His light shines on our lives, and we see our own marks and defects. We live in a society where we judge by people’s mistakes, and certain people are judged to be bad, and others judged to be good. Jesus told us that “only God is good.”
God’s mercy is abundant, and far exceeds any sin. Today’s psalm showed us that God is “close to all who call on Him from their heart.” This is the key to unlocking God’s mercy. We must have a contrite heart. We are encouraged by the many contrite hearts in the Gospels, from the good thief on the cross, to the adulterous woman, to Zaccheus up the tree, to the prodigal son. We are guaranteed God’s forgiveness if we ask Him with a sincere heart.
Maybe there is someone in our lives that we struggle to forgive. It’s not easy for us, maybe impossible on our own, but if we ask God for help then we can forgive, and show mercy.
Let’s try and ask for that help today.