25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 21st, 2014 – Preached at the Sunday morning Masses, Cathedral of Christ the King
Reading 1 – IS 55:6-9
Reading 2 – PHIL 1:20C-24, 27A
Gospel – MT 20:1-16A
In some ways people never change. In today’s Gospel parable, we hear that the men who worked all day long in the vineyard were livid when they realized that those who had only worked for an hour were getting paid a full day’s wage. If we’re honest, you and I have probably had the same reaction at some point. How could this landowner be so unfair?!? Yes, in some ways people never change. But is this the right perspective through which we should look at this parable?
In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah reminds us that God thinks differently than we do, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus shares the parable of the rich landowner with his disciples, his closest friends and those committed to follow him. So what exactly is Jesus trying to teach those closest to him and by extension, what is he trying to teach you and me?
Let’s start by focusing on the land-owner. Did he cheat anyone? Did he give anyone less than he promised? No. In the time of Jesus, day workers didn’t have regular work. They literally had to seek work day by day to feed their families. Those not hired by mid-day would be resigned to another hungry evening for themselves and their families. It was a hard life, living day to day with little to no security. Only a man with a truly generous heart would put men to work with only an hour remaining till sundown. And only an extraordinarily generous man would pay them a full day’s wage! This parable would have blown the minds of Jesus’ listeners; in a GOOD way. And it should blow our minds too!
Another commentator noted that this land-owner was relentless in his generosity. He didn’t just go out once or twice during the day. But five times he went out into the streets of his village looking to invite anyone he could find to come and work in his vineyard. Jesus tells us that God is like this landowner; that he is relentless in inviting anyone who will listen to come and work in and for the Kingdom. There’s not one person that ever lived that God did not desire to invite to come work in his kingdom. There is not one person sitting in this Church right now that God does not passionately pursue – desiring that each and every one hear and accept his invitation to come and work in the vineyard of his kingdom.
For some, the invitation is heard and accepted early in life. For others, the invitation to the kingdom is heard during a crisis, or a major event that occurs in mid-life. And still for others, the invitation is heard in the twilight of life, perhaps even at the last moments before death. The beautiful thing is that we have a God whose generosity knows no bounds; who stands ready at all times to shower us with his mercy and love. All we need to do is to say yes to his invitation.
This is one thing I love so much about Pope Francis. He models for us what it looks like to be the generous landowner. Pope Francis engages and invites people from all walks of life and across all social and economic strata. He models the master, Jesus, who ate and hung out with tax collectors and prostitutes, to the chagrin of the upper crust and power brokers in their society. The way Pope Francis engages people in all walks and states of life has gotten the attention of the whole world; and the world is listening. It’s a lesson you and I need to put into practice in our own lives.
It occurs to me that some of you may be here seeking, questioning, considering; but not yet convinced you personally have been invited to work in the vineyard of God’s kingdom. If that describes you, then please listen closely to me now. Because I invite you, on behalf of Jesus, to come and work in our Father’s kingdom. I can’t make it any more plain than that. And now you can’t say you haven’t been personally invited.
As disciples, we are all SENT at the end of every Mass to go out there; outside these walls to invite everyone, ALL people to participate in the work of the kingdom – ALL people. Those we love for sure. But as Pope Francis has shown us, we are called to engage with those in our neighborhoods, our places of work, our social circles and yes, to the people who might make us feel uncomfortable; who might think differently than we do.
This is Catechist Sunday. At today’s Masses, after the homily, our parish Catechists will be commissioned. What a perfect illustration of the lesson Jesus teaches today. Those of you who are catechists are committing to be just like that vineyard owner, inviting our children and young adults to come and work in the vineyard of God’s kingdom. And at the end of Mass, all you parents will receive a special blessing that recognizes you are the first and primary teachers of the faith for your children. As you receive that blessing, I encourage you to make a commitment to Jesus that you too will be like the vineyard owner and invite your children to participate with you and this community in working together in the vineyard of God’s kingdom.
If you are a disciple and are ready to take up this challenge, then I’d recommend a prayer written by St. Teresa of Avila. Listen as I pray on our behalf:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
No hands but yours, no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which the
compassion of Christ must look out on the world.
Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless His people. AMEN!
This prayer is printed on the bottom of page 4 of the bulletin so you can cut it out, place it on your mirror, and make it a daily reminder that God is counting on you to be like the generous land-owner.
My brothers and sisters, in each of our lives, there are men and women; sons and daughters; brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers; young and old; who are leading lives of quiet desperation. Our father in heaven calls us to mirror his generosity as we go out into the streets of our lives and invite those we find there to come and work with us in the vineyard of God’s kingdom. The question I ask you to ponder today is, “Are you ready to step up and respond to God’s generous invitation?”
St. Teresa of Avila, PRAY FOR US!