God's lavish generosity
24 September 2023 25th Sunday Year A
Listen to reflection
Many of the grim-faced youths waiting to have their feet washed that Holy Thursday were heavily tattooed. They were familiar with the harsh realities of crime and violence. Nevertheless, the elderly figure knelt before them, gently washed then dried their feet, and kissed their feet lovingly.
Touched by his gesture of love and mercy, they kissed his hand, thanked him warmly and appeared deeply moved by his actions. The figure before them was Pope Francis and the young people were inmates at a juvenile prison in Rome.
Today’s gospel illustrates a quality which Greg Boyle SJ has described as the “limitless magnanimity of God.” The generous landowner in the parable invites any worker needing employment into his vineyard. It is a metaphor for a God whose generosity knows no bounds. He longs to include everyone in his plan for redemption.
The wage of one denarius is not an indication that the landowner is a mean-spirited businessman. In contrast, it is meant to show that everyone is equally valued no matter their circumstances. God’s love sets no limits and, indeed, is entirely undeserved. It is a gift he offers to everyone regardless of how they come to him.
Fr Boyle has embodied this lavish generosity in his ministry. Touched by the plight of disadvantaged youth who have fallen into crime, he founded Homeboy Ministries, a gang intervention and rehabilitation program in Los Angeles. He has, for the past few decades, provided training, employment and opportunities for gang members—some of whom even belong to rival gangs—to rebuild their lives.
He describes God’s heart as “immeasurably larger than our imaginations can conjure.” He says that God longs to give all of us, regardless of our circumstances “peace, assurance and a sense of well-being” (Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion).
In his encyclical “Fratelli Tutti,” Pope Francis draws on the example of St Francis of Assisi to encourage us to live in a manner marked radically by the gospel. St Francis regarded his primary goal as spreading the love of God to everyone. Pope Francis explains that St Francis understood that “God is love and those who abide in love abide in God” (1 John 4:16). Pope Francis also cites the parable of the Good Samaritan as well as Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman as examples of how God’s love transcends boundaries such as race and culture.
Our deep encounter with an immensely generous and loving God can prove life-changing and indeed world-changing. God’s love transforms each of us and, in turn, ripples out to the broad network of everyone with whom we interact. Pope Francis explains that “our relationships, if healthy and authentic, open us to others who expand and enrich us.” Empowered by this divine impetus, we can bring about significant social, economic and political change in our world.
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