My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
I think today as we come for the celebration of our Sunday liturgy, we should keep in our hearts and our prayers the people that are suffering as a consequence of the hurricanes in Florida and then in Puerto Rico, and also the people in Mexico that are suffering in the aftermath of the earthquakes these past few weeks. May God grant all of them consolation and courage as they begin to rebuild their lives!
Today, we also should give thanks to God for our newest American saint, who was beatified yesterday in Oklahoma City — Blessed Stanley Rother. He was a missionary priest and a martyr, who was killed for serving the people in Guatemala in 1981.
So let’s keep Blessed Stanley in mind today as we reflect especially on the passage of the Gospel today in this Mass, in which Jesus reminds us that we are all called to serve in God’s vineyard. We are called to grow God’s family.
The parable in today’s Gospel is a parable that we know well. But I was thinking that it would be good for us today to kind of stop and reflect a little bit on the different parts of the parable, because I think it helps us, as I said before, to renew our missionary call. Especially to see the importance of all of us being involved in bringing the good news of the Gospel to the people of our time.
As we know, it is what the second Vatican Council called the “universal call to holiness,” and it’s what the pope’s have been talking to us for many years now — St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and now Pope Francis — talking to us about the new evangelization and talking to us about how we are all called to be missionary disciples.
So, in the parable, as we know, there is a man who owns a vineyard and at different times in the day he goes out in the market place and he hires people to do work in his vineyard. When the day is done and it is evening, all the workers line up to receive their wages. And, as we heard, he gave all of them the same daily wage.
So, that is what the parable says — but what does it mean for us?
In this parable, the landowner stands for Jesus, the laborers are every man and woman — they are all of us — some of us became believers early in our life, some of us later in life. Then the vineyard is the world in which we are called to follow Jesus and build God’s kingdom —through our ministries in the Church, through our relationships, and also in our daily activities, our work, our family lives — in everything that we do in our communities.
Then the day that Jesus is talking about is both our personal lifetime and also the lifetime of the world, until Jesus comes again.
And the daily wage that the landowner promises stands for eternal life. The joy of God’s kingdom. And God gives this gift to everyone who serves him, no matter what they were called to do in the vineyard.
So, it’s parable that we know well and the message is beautiful — it talks about our daily life and at the same time, it’s challenging.
So the Lord is telling us, today once again, that he has called each one of us, personally, to do that work in his vineyard, growing his Kingdom on earth. He sends each one of us out into his vineyard and gives us a mission — it is the mission of the Church.
As we know, going out into all the world to preach his Gospel. Proclaiming forgiveness of sins in his name. Teaching people to live by all that Jesus commanded.
But I guess the important thing for us is to understand and reflect on the fact that this teaching is for me and for you. Not just for some special people, or people with a special vocation — we all are called to serve in his vineyard.
It’s very interesting, as we heard, that in the middle of the parable, we heard that the vineyard owner gets kind of impatient — he finds some people standing around and he asks them, “why do you stand here idle all day?” And then he sends them out into the vineyard.
So it seems like the owner of the vineyard doesn’t like people just standing around. Everyone has a place, everyone has a purpose in his vineyard — and that’s again a call to each one of us.
It seems like God doesn’t like us just to stand around and do nothing, it seems that what God is asking us to do is to be very active in our faith. In a normal way, we know how to be doing extraordinary things, but we have to be acting in knowing our faith and finding a way to share our faith with one another.
So, the question for us today is, what is my job in the vineyard? How is God calling me to help grow his family, his kingdom?
It is an important question because that is what’s going to help us really receive the reward for our life — heaven, eternal life, absolute happiness. Sometimes we think that material things or superficial things are going to give us real happiness, but we all know that those things are good and useful sometimes but that’s not what real happiness is all about.
So today, let us ask for the grace to, once again, renew our commitment to see our life as a life of love and service for God and one another. To serve God. To serve our neighbors, the people in our families. This is how we grow the family of God, this is how we grow God’s kingdom — through works of love, through acts of service.
But there is one more thing in this parable — I’m sure that there are many more things according to the way that we reflect our lives and what we see in the Word of God — but I noticed another thing that might be useful for us and it’s the fact that we are all called and the mission of the Church is our responsibility.
No one is more important in mission of the Church, we all have our responsibilities. So at the end of the parable, we see some tension — those that have been working all day, long, they start complaining because at the end, the landowner gives the same wage to all of them, even to those who came to work much later in the day.
They say it’s not fair, but the point is — as we are reflecting today — that we are all promised the same reward, eternal life. No matter who we are. No matter how we are called to serve in the vineyard.
Jesus says today:
Are you envious because I am generous?
Thus the last will be first
And the first will be last.
As the prophet Isaiah says today in first reading of today’s Mass: God’s ways are not our ways.
God is much more generous, so much more merciful than we could every imagine. His love, his grace is pure gift.
So we have this certainty that if dedicate our lives to the service of God and the service of our brothers and sisters, God is going to reward us in an unbelievable way.
That’s why it is so important for us to reflect on this beautiful parable, to feel the responsibility to be another Christ, Christ himself, and to go out and share with the people of our time the beauty of the life and teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
So today, let us ask the intercession of our new American saint, Blessed Stanley Rother, may he inspire us and give us the courage to carry out the mission that we have in this country and around the whole world.
And may Mary Our Blessed Mother inspire us to labor with love in the vineyard of her Son.
1. Readings (Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ord. Time, Year A): Isa. 55:6-9; Ps. 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18; Phil. 1:20-24, 27; Matt. 20:1-16.