DON’T DISTORT GOD’S GOODNESS
Throughout his prophetic journey, Jesus insisted over and over again on communicating his experience of God as «a mystery of unfathomable goodness» that breaks through all our calculations. His message is so revolutionary that even after 20 centuries there are still Christians who haven’t found their way to take it seriously.
In order to infect everyone with his experience of this Good God, Jesus compares God’s way of acting with the surprising conduct of the owner of a vineyard. Up to five times he himself goes out personally to contract workers for his vineyard. He doesn’t seem to be too worried about his progress in the work. What he wants is that no worker end up another day without work.
That’s why, at the end of the day, he doesn’t pay them according to the work that each group did. Though each one’s work has been pretty unequal, he gives them all «a denarius»: basically what a peasant family of Galilee needs each day to survive.
When a spokesperson of the first group protests that he has treated the last ones the same as the ones who have worked like no one else that day, the owner of the vineyard answers him with these wonderful words: «Why should you be envious because I am generous?». Are you going to stand in my way with your stingy calculations when I am kind to those who need bread to eat?
What is Jesus suggesting? That God doesn’t act according to the criteria of justice and equality that we use? Is it true that God, rather than go about measuring the merits of people like we tend to do, always seeks to respond from an unfathomable goodness to our radical need of salvation?
I confess that I feel great sadness when I meet good people who imagine God dedicated to meticulously jotting down the sins and the merits of human beings, in order to pay them back exactly according to what each one deserves. Is it possible to imagine a more inhumane being than someone doing this for all eternity?
To believe in a God who is an unconditional Friend, is to be able to have the most liberating experience that one could imagine, the most vigorous power to live and to die. On the contrary, to live in the presence of an avenging and threatening God could become a very dangerous and self-destructive personal neurosis.
We need to learn not to confuse God with our own narrow and stingy plans. We shouldn’t distort God’s unfathomable goodness by mixing the authentic features that come from Jesus with features of an avenging God taken from here and there. In the face of the good God revealed in Jesus, the only thing that fits is trust.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf