25th Sunday: Are you, Am I, Good Enough?
I came upon an interesting story this week about the building of the suspension bridge across the Niagra River right next to Niagra Falls. The very first bridge to link Canada and the U.S. over the falls was a footbridge built in 1848. The engineers knew that for them to build the suspension bridge they had to find a way to string a huge steel cable across the chasm. But the water was treacherous. They could not do it by boat. This was 1848, so they couldn’t do it by airplane either. How could they get this huge cable across? The story goes that a 10 year old boy solved their problem. The engineers heard that there was a little boy who was an excellent kite flier. So they got him to fly a kite with a strong, thin filament, actually a thread. The boy was so good a kite flier that he was able to stand on one side, fly the kite really high, and then direct the kite to land on the other side where other engineers were waiting. Once they had the kite, they had that thread going across the water. They then tied a stronger string to the thread and pulled that across. Then an even stronger string. Then the ropes came, stronger and strong. Then they sent across the first steel cable, a thin one. Then a stronger one, and a stronger one, until they were able to string the support cable across the water. Once that cable was across, they could begin building the bridge.
Now, which was more important? The strong steel cable, or the thin string? Maybe the strong one did the heavy lifting, but that thin string was as important as every other string, rope or cable. Just as in our eyes all the ropes and cables are important, we are the same in the eyes of God. We are all part
of His plan whether our role is little or big, whether we have worked for the Lord all our lives or have recently returned to the Lord.
God gives His Grace according to how He perceives the work that is done, according to His standards, not according to ours. He sees the hard work that might be only that of a thread, as well as the hard work of the rope and the steel cable.
That is what the Gospel reading is about, that parable about the last hired receiving the same wages as the first hired. God sees the individual effort and rewards this effort generously. His standards are not like ours. He is God.
Sometimes I hear some people say, “I am not as good as him, or her.” That is wrong. We do not have the right to compare ourselves with others, positively or negatively. It is wrong for someone to say, “I am better than him.” It is also wrong to say, “I am not as good as her.” No, God has a purpose for each of us. Only He knows what that purpose is. Only He knows how well we fulfill that purpose.
My concern is that sometimes I think you, and sometimes I think I, give up too easily. We have a bad day, not because we are feeling badly, but because we foolishly decide to go along with the crowd and behave badly. And then we become upset with ourselves because we know we are better than that, we want to follow Christ, but have not. We all do this because we are human beings. St. Paul put it this way in the Letter to the Romans,
“I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. I see in my members a law at war with the law of my soul, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.”
We cannot give up. We can never give up. And we are wrong if we compare yourselves to others. We feel we are not as good as someone else so we give up. We can’t do that either. We
are each created to be unique reflections of God’s love. We do not have the right to compare our reflection to anyone else’s. God created us for who each of us is when we do everything possible to let Him work in us. We need to do our best, to be our best, and let God take care of the rest.
The last hired were paid first. He does not make a comparison between our lives and those of others. He rewards us according to the way that we live out the Grace He gives each of us.
God’s ways are not the ways of humans. And thank God for that!