We have all seen the images of Conchita transfixed in an upward gaze of prayer, like some graceful sculpture poised to meet God Almighty.
Likewise, the photos of the seers in similar, graceful gazes toward the heavens during apparitions are plentiful. Apart from their vivid beauty and powerful message of devotion, these images silently convey a simple yet profound lesson illustrated in Matthew 20: 1-16.
Matthew 20: 1-16 tells us the parable of the landowner who paid various workers who worked on his field the same wage despite their varying hours of toil. It is one of my favorite parables because it jolts us free from the mundane accounting of this world and carries us to the celestial heights of Heaven's human resources department.
The world teaches us that fairness depends on being paid for what one has worked, no more and no less. Even people like St. Peter and St. Paul speak to us in terms of carrying our fair share of efforts and contributing to the community. Given all of this talk of fairness and earning one's pay, it is easy to see why many would see the parable of Matthew 20 as some distorted, misguided, even foolish managerial move. When asked about this parable, all of my business friends merely smirk and shrug off the entire story as naïve, poor public relations leading to certain future worker revolt. After all, they argue, what worker will be foolish enough to show up in the morning the next time when he knows that he will receive the same pay if he shows up one hour before the end of the work day? Will this landowner not merely end up with 30 workers showing up one hour before closing looking for a full day's pay? Isn't all of this a pathetic prelude to eventual bankruptcy?
The Christ of Matthew 20 is not speaking to us in mundane terms of fairness, public relations, worker rights, or even social justice. This parable tells us that God pays us with His own currency on His own terms.
He does not care about first and last, about front of the line, or about me first. He is not merely impressed by quantity or units produced. God Almighty wants us to gaze upward toward His Word, His Will, and the lessons and guidance of Christ leading tosalvation. The Almighty wants us to gaze upward toward Our Heavenly Mother Who is ready to be an advocate for that salvation if we only open our hearts, souls, and minds to Her counsel. Finally, if we follow Christ's example, we will always hold others up as our brothers and sisters whom we should serve and love, likewise gazing upward as we become instruments of their salvation as well as our own.
Traffic Signs at the Pines
If the Garabandal Message and the events of four decades ago could be summed up in a single sign, it would be a traffic sign pointing upward toward Heaven. The Garabandal Message tells us that we must wrap our daily activities with the ribbon of serving God Almighty and saving souls. It tells us that we must pray as often as we can in one form or another, but always seeking to maintain a holy bridge to our Creator. Lastly, the message of Garabandal answers the petty or mundane issues and obstacles of this earth with a simple upward gaze, an eternal glance laced with trust just as the seers glanced upward even while racing on the steep rocks of the Pines. When Our Lady told us to "lead good lives", it was understood that determining what is "good" can only be achieved by gazing upward toward a celestial reference point while holding the lessons from above given to us by Christ. If all roads lead to God, and God is above us both figuratively and spiritually, then all traffic signs of salvation must likewise lead upward as well!
The Direction of Sin
If holiness and salvation are found by gazing up, then it would seem logical that sin and perdition will be found by looking down. When we look down we allow our eyes to focus on the material and the limited, leading to greed, lust, and selfishness.
When we look down we become concerned with our relative position in comparison to others, which leads to jealousy and pride. When we look down we begin to rely only on ourselves and forget our God. Notice that insulting someone is called putting them "down", and that feeling depressed is called feeling "down". All of this is because "down" is away from kindness, generosity, compassion, service, love and forgiveness. Since Christ is all about these good things, then it follows that "down" is being away from Christ and Our Heavenly Father. Finally, when we look down, we see the rocks and thorns of the path to the Pines as opposed to the beauty and peace of the Pines which we see if we look up. This does not mean, of course, that we cannot be cautious and peek down when needed. What all of this means, however, is that we must not let that caution turn to mistrust, then fear, and then sin.
The Parable and the Pines
One of the most consistent observations regarding the seers is their desire to serve others while serving God. This focus on The Almighty and others makes no sense to the accounting of this earth. It is not based on how others have treated us, how they can help us, how many units of work they have done for us, or how we compare to them. Everything about this earth tells us that comparisons measure fairness, that more should bring more, that less should bring less, and that first on line is a good thing. The parable in Matthew 20 and the Garabandal Message, however, tell us that salvation, love, service, and holiness are not about comparisons, quantities, or order of finish. The Parable and the Pines tell us that God is about love, peace, and divine justice, and there can be no love, peace, or divine justice where there is an obsession with beating others and being first. Both the Parable and the Pines tell us that we are called upon to work in God's field and that His payment is salvation. That salvation is His currency and it need not answer to our distorted expectations, delusions, or perceptions of justice or fairness. The Pines tell us that the Voice of God speaks to us when we gaze upward both physically and spiritually. Despite the sharp rocks below and the threatening thorns around us, we cannot help but gaze upward toward our God as we climb to that place where earthly debates of fairness fade in the silence and peace of Heaven.
Reprinted with kind permission from GARABANDAL International, January - March 2006,by Gabriel Garnica