Wednesday, 20 August 2008

My Thoughts on the Bible Readings of Today

The call of the Lord in Ezekiel in today's bible reading to feed His sheep should be familiar, as it was what Jesus said three consecutive times to Peter. And the last part of the reading (I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out) sounds like a foreshadowing of the coming of God the Son. But let's move on to the gospel reading.

First some background. In Jesus' time laborers had to wait each day in the marketplace until someone hired them for a day's job. No work that day usually meant no food on the family table. Thus the landowner was generous in giving the laborers hired last money for a day's food for an hour's work. Nothing wrong with that scenario right? It is after all his money. So why did the laborers hired earlier complain? I guess they wanted an equal share in that generosity. The fact that they who worked longer did not get more generosity than those who did not work as long galled them. But they forgot that they did not sign on for generosity or equality, but for a day's wages. The amount of work that needs to be done to deserve that wage is entirely dependent on he who pays the wage, not he who works.

Now I'm going to be less literal and shift into allegory mode. Aren't many of us like the first workers to be hired? We voluntarily sign on to serve the Lord for imprecise rewards, yet when we see other servants become "luckier" in their service we complain that the Lord is unfair. But the very fact that we are created different with different gifts to live out different parts in God's plan means some will be "luckier" than others. Furthermore, how do we measure the "luck"? By material things, i.e. how rich, how spiritually gifted, how high in position, how clever, how beautiful, how happy and so on. But God never promised us these things when we enter His service, just fullness of life on Earth and eternity in Heaven. Shouldn't we leave other rewards up to Him? After all, He knows best.

Memorial of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

So who is this particular St. Bernard? Let's look to Wikipedia:

- born in 1090 A.D. in Fontaines, France
- sought admission into the Cistercian order, and 3 years later (on 25 June 1115) was sent to found a new house that Bernard named Claire Vallée, of Clairvaux
- in 1128 assisted at the Council of Troyes, at which he traced the outlines of the Rule of the Knights Templar
- was chosen to judge between rival popes (Innocent II and Anacletus II) when a schism broke out in the Church after the death of Pope Honorius II in 1130
- in 1139 assisted at the Second Council of the Lateran
- denounced the teachings of Peter Abelard to the Pope who called a council at Sens in 1141 to settle the matter. There Bernard won a public debate against Abelard, causing Abelard to retire
- preached against various heresies in France
- was commissioned to preach a Second Crusade, though it failed.
- died on 20 August 1153 after 40 years spent in the cloister
- canonized by Pope Alexander III 18 January 1174 & was the first Cistercian monk placed on the calendar of saints
- Pope Pius VIII bestowed on him the title of Doctor of the Church.

Today's Bible Readings (Memorial of Saint Bernard)

These are the readings for today Wed 20 Aug:

Ezekiel 34: 1-11
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them – to the shepherds: ‘This is what the sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the choice animals, but you do not feed the sheep! You have not strengthened the weak, healed the sick, bandaged the injured, brought back the strays, or sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled over them. They were scattered because they had no shepherd, and they became food for every wild beast. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over the entire face of the earth with no one looking or searching for them.
“‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, my sheep have become prey and have become food for all the wild beasts. There was no shepherd, and my shepherds did not search for my flock, but fed themselves and did not feed my sheep. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand my sheep from their hand. I will no longer let them be shepherds; the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore. I will rescue my sheep from their mouth, so that they will no longer be food for them. For this is what the sovereign Lord says: Look, I myself will search for my sheep and seek them out.”

Matthew 20: 1-16
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. And after agreeing with the workers for the standard wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When it was about nine o’clock in the morning, he went out again and saw others standing around in the marketplace without work. He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and I will give you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and three o’clock that afternoon, he did the same thing. And about five o’clock that afternoon he went out and found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why are you standing here all day without work?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go and work in the vineyard too.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give the pay starting with the last hired until the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each received a full day’s pay. And when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each one also received the standard wage. When they received it, they began to complain against the landowner, saying, ‘These last fellows worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us who bore the hardship and burning heat of the day.’ And the landowner replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage? Take what is yours and go. I want to give to this last man the same as I gave to you. Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”