Picture: cc Caitee Smith
My dear friends, do you know how deep the sea is? It depends, of course, on one’s location. For example, according to Wikipedia, the deepest place in the oceans is about 11,000 metres deep. That’s 2,000 metres more than the height of Mount Everest. Which is very deep. On the other hand, if I were to go to the beach, and walk a few steps into the water, that’s not deep at all. But location is not the only factor. As you know, climate change is causing sea-levels to rise all over the world. And scientists tell us that climate change is caused mainly by human activities. So the distance between the surface of the sea and the ocean-floor depends not only on our location, but also on how we choose to live.
The same can be said about the distance mentioned in our Mass readings today: the distance between the ways of God and human ways. Like the depth of the sea, this too depends on one’s location. In the first reading, the wicked person is asked to abandon his way, to leave his own evil location, in order to move toward God. For the heavens are as high above earth as God’s ways are above the ways of the wicked.
And if wickedness is where the distance between God and humanity is greatest, then righteousness is where the distance is smallest. And no one is more righteous than Christ Jesus. For we believe that, in Christ, God and humanity unite. In Christ, the greatness of God, which cannot be measured, takes on human flesh. In Christ, we see in human form the loving God who is at once both just in all his ways, and compassionate to all his creatures.
Isn’t this why we gather for the Eucharist? We believe that here, around the Table of the Lord, we are brought to that privileged place where humanity coincides with God, where earth enjoys intimate contact with heaven, where the Lord truly comes close to all who call on him from their hearts.
Even so, the gospel reminds us how important it is that we understand this Eucharistic location correctly. It is not just about being in church. For all the workers in the parable also experienced a change in location. In response to the landowner’s call, they moved away from the market place in order to work in the vineyard. And yet, those hired first couldn’t help feeling envious of those who came later but received the same wage. Why? Isn’t it because, despite spending a whole day in the vineyard, these early birds had still not yet given up the mindset of the market place?
Which goes to show that the Eucharist is not only about what happens to us when we gather. It is also about how we live after we disperse. It is about following what St Paul says in the second reading. Choosing, as individuals and as a community, to live in such a way that Christ will be glorified in our bodies. For example, by treating the vulnerable with compassion, and by paying workers a just wage.
Sisters and brothers, if it is true that, like the depth of the sea, our distance from God depends on where we are and how we live, then what must we do to keep drawing closer to God today?