Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 24, 2017
One doesn’t have to search too far in the Old Testament in order to find a conflict between what Israel considered in its “national best interest” and what God was asking of the Chosen People. Over and over again, we see how human thoughts do not always track God’s thoughts or ways. And each and every time Israel moved away from God’s plan, pursuing what seemed at the time to be the most advantageous direction for their interests, there was a stiff price to pay. Thankfully, each and every time they repented, God proved to be most generous in forgiving.
The remarkable thing is that they never seemed to learn from their mistakes. And each and every time, the culprit that motived the national misstep seemed to be a sense of entitlement. In other words, they found themselves in deep trouble when, in a selfish or self-serving manner, they claimed a vested interest in something that, in God’s way of thinking, should be a universal interest. Theologian Monika Hellwig put it this way: Our notions of justice are petty and self-serving when compared with Divine justice.
The Readings for this 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time would be a perfect lens to send to Washington D.C. as our nation’s leaders struggle with a wide range of social justice issues, searching for what is in our “national best interest,” immigration and border security at the top of the list.
Granted, the barbaric terrorist attacks have caused most western nations to close in on themselves. With every new report of a bombing or shooting, the terrorist alert is elevated. It certainly seems that it is in the “national best interest” to secure the borders and track down and deport anyone who is already in residence who poses a realistic threat to homeland security.
In this country, the hot topic of debate these days is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This law has become a political ping pong ball…that our leaders keep bouncing back and forth with no reasonable solution in sight. So-called “dreamers,” thought to number about 800,000, are those who entered this country illegally as minors. While there are undoubtedly some bad guys among them, the vast majority of these young people aspire only to “the American dream” of a decent standard of living.
Those who oppose more lenient immigration laws certainly raise solid arguments about what is in the “national best interest.” Still, one must wonder whether an underlying reason to resist an open door policy for “properly vetted” folks seeking nothing more than a better way of life is motivated by something other than concern over terrorism. Just possibly, the dreams of “the dreamers” appear to challenge the dreams of those who came first. When we claim vested interest in anything, arguing that it is unjust to threaten what rightfully belongs to us…we are thinking like human beings and not like God. When we claim exclusive right to anything that God intended for universal good…in other words, for everyone…we are in danger.
With His parable about the workers in the vineyard and the surprisingly generous landowner, Jesus is not attempting to frame an immigration policy. What this story lesson does underscore, however, is God’s message delivered by Isaiah the Prophet.
God’s ways are not our ways…and our ways get us into trouble as a nation, a Church, a family…when a sense of “vested interest” or “entitlement” or “superiority” or “worthiness” clouds our thinking and prevents us from seeing that our BEST INTEREST is when our thoughts and actions track with God’s plan for what is fair and just…even when it seems to threaten our thoughts and dreams of how things should be.