25th Sunday in Ordinary Time — September 18, 2011
Isaiah 55.6-9 | Psalm 145 | Philippians 1.20-24, 27 | Matthew 20.1-16

Kathleen Giffin

September 12, 2011

There are singular events in every person's life that serve as both watersheds and points of reference in the years that follow. One such event for me was the birth of my daughter Ange. On the day she was born she was diagnosed with both a congenital heart defect and Down Syndrome.

My response, in the succeeding days and weeks, exposed the best and the worst in me. The best was that I did everything that I could to make sure that she was loved, nurtured and received the best medical care and early intervention. The worst was what I thought and felt about this event that had "happened to me."

Of course looking back I was able to recognize, with shame, that the suffering that I experienced was mostly due to the loss I felt and how I perceived this event as affecting me, rather than from compassion for this little one of mine who was facing traumatic medical interventions and significant challenges in the years ahead.

But at the time, I was simply miserable, feeling acutely abandoned by God, wondering what lesson I had not learned that God was reduced to afflicting me in this way.

The chaplain at the hospital urged me to take my complaint against God directly to him; and so I did. I asked my "why" questions; and heard with clarity the answer, "She is a gift."

I have never doubted the validity of what I heard that day. It was certainly not my thoughts, for "gift" was not in my heart. I could only stand in awe in the face of such a radically different view, and choose to say yes to the unfolding of this gift in my life.


I call this event a watershed because it was my first encounter with the truth that is proclaimed in this Sunday's reading, and because I am frequently reminded of it when faced with a contrast between my view of things and God's view of things.

From the prophet Isaiah: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways . . . for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways."

And from the gospel, the story of the generous landowner, who paid those who worked an hour the same amount as he paid those who gave a full day's work.

I do not understand the justice in that, it simply seems wrong to me, for the first workers to not get more. But the truth is, God sees things differently than I do and so I must, if I am to acknowledge my Creator, trust God's view.

I have learned that it is a mistake to judge and interpret Scripture and Church teaching from the perspective of my own wisdom and understanding.

My convictions cannot be the measuring stick of the truth or justice in God's instruction; instead it is God's ways that must be the reference point for my heart and beliefs.

(Kathleen Giffin kgif@telus.net)