Sunday, May 5, 2024


If you were to die today and you stood before the gates of heaven and you were asked this one simple question to see whether you got in or not, could you answer that one simple question? Here is that question. “Who does God love?”

Well, if you are not sure, I am going to give you the answer - the answer found in today’s first reading. It is so simple, yet unbelievably astounding! Who does God love? He loves everybody – everybody - no ands, ifs or buts about it!

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said,
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. While Peter
was still speaking these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were
listening to the word. The Jewish converts who had accompanied
Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit
should have been poured out on the Gentiles too.
Acts of the Apostles 10

One of the parables that most brings this point home to me is the parable of the vineyard workers. The parable of the “Vineyard Workers” is enough to make wine growers all over the world cringe! This parable is not an instruction on to operate a profitable vineyard. If you followed this example, you would be broke in no time! No, it’s a story about how God treats us, a story about God’s unbelievable generosity! For Jesus, the whole purpose of this parable is to shock in order to teach! This parable is insane, according to human thinking, but that’s the whole point of the parable. That’s its genius! It tells of God’s unexpected insane love for us, no matter what we have done or what we have failed to do! That’s why it is called “the gospel,” “the good news!”

Those who had “worked all day in the sun” were the religious authorities. Those “hour before quitting time” workers were the “tax collectors and sinners,” those who felt unworthy in God’s eyes, the simple people who followed Jesus! You can imagine how both groups reacted when they heard the punch line, “Give them all a full day's pay!” “Give them all a full day's pay!”

This message is very close to the message of another parable, the one we call the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In that story, the father loves both his sons, the one who stayed home and followed all the rules, as well as the one who strayed away and got down with the pigs! The message is simple: God loves all his children, not matter what they have done or failed to do!

The tax collectors, sinners and rejects were delirious with joy when they heard that message! The Scribes and Pharisees, who taught that God’s love depended on people’s behaviors, were outraged. In the words of Jesus, they were “envious because I am generous.” They made the mistake of believing that there is not enough God-love to go around!

One of the worst things to happen to the church was when it started to “conditionalize” this “good news” and started teaching people that God will love you if you do this and God won’t love you if you do that!” It is not uncommon to hear some religious people tone down the “good news” because it is “too dangerous.” I was often criticized at the Cathedral by them when I welcomed home hundreds of fallen away Catholics by preaching this message. Their worst nightmare is that if people really believed the message of the parables and the church really taught it, all hell would break loose! People would start doing any damned thing they wanted! That’s the same thing that worried the Scribes and Pharisees. In reality, the opposite was true in Jesus’ day and the opposite is true in ours! People’s lives are transformed by this message! They are converted by this message! This message inspires them to love others the same way they have been loved by God.

What do you believe? Are you one of those people who still believes that God’s pays us with love depending how many hours we have loved him? Are you one of those people who still believes that God turns his love on and off depending what we do or fail to do? If you are, really listen to the message of the parables. If it sounds too good to be true, then you have gotten the message! God’s incredible unconditional love does sound too good to be true, but the fact of the matter is, it is true! As St. Paul says in his famous Letter to the Romans (5:8), “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” He died for us before we ever thought about shaping up. He didn’t die for us as a reward for our shaping up! While we were still sinners, he died for us!

So, what are we going to do about it? In the Gospel today, Jesus does not command that we love him back. He doesn’t say, love me and then I’ll love you back! All he asks is for us to love one each other “as he loves us.”

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
John 10

How does he love us? He loves us without condition, no ands, ifs or buts about it! He commands us to love each other the same way, without condition, no ands, if or buts about it – even our enemies, even those who will not love us back! God would not demand that we do something he wouldn’t do! He loves us even when we treat him like an enemy, whether we ever love him back or not! We can reject God’s love for us, we can turn our heads and refuse his love, but we can’t stop him from loving us no matter what we do! Hell is not full of people that God has punished for not loving him! It is full of people who condemned themselves by refusing to accept God’s unconditional love for them! It was they who did themselves in!

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
John 10

The biggest sin we can commit is not our failure to love God back. The biggest sin we can commit is our failure to love each other. Our biggest sin is our failure to forgive each other. Our biggest sin is holding grudges against each other. Our biggest sin is mistreating each other, ignoring each other and demeaning each other! If God can forgive his enemies and love them anyway, why can’t we forgive our enemies and love them anyway? And that, my friends, would probably be a whole lot easier without FACEBOOK, the home of mean, nasty, vicious back-biting comments and condemnations!

This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
John 10

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