25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
It’s judgment day, and everyone is lined up in the clouds waiting at the pearly gates. Everyone in line is watching as Peter stands as gatekeeper, admitting some and denying entry to others. Some of those waiting in line see Peter letting people through the gates who they didn’t expect to be in Heaven. They start to talk among themselves, saying those people don’t belong in Heaven, having lived such sinful lives and hurt so many people. As they wait and watch, a number of them grow increasingly restless, even upset about the sinners walking in. “Why did we live such virtuous lives to spend eternity alongside these people? Surely there’s been a mistake!” Suddenly, the clouds open up beneath these people and they fall down through.
How would you feel if you found out that some new people at your workplace received a bigger check for the same job you are doing?
It rankles if we find out, and sometimes we feel resentful, angry, and upset. Although we know we should be grateful to have a job, we seem to lose some of our enthusiasm for our work because we feel cheated.
What was Jesus telling His disciples in this parable?
He was using this story to make them aware that He wants all mankind to taste the sweetness of heaven. In Revelation, we are told ….“Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life (Rev 22:17). Today this includes us all, no matter how late in the day we come to Him to accept His gift of salvation. The lame, the sick, and even the dying will be welcomed, and those of us who have given our lives to Him should feel pure and unselfish joy when a new soul comes to faith.
Jesus recounts the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, in which workers are called by the vineyard owner to work in his vineyard at different hours of the day but are all given the same pay. According to Pope Benedict XVI, the equal reward represents “eternal life, a gift that God reserves for all.” Further, the parable is about being called, “being able to work in God’s vineyard, putting oneself at his service, collaborating with his work.” Being called by God is itself a form of compensation. But those who work only for payment, Pope Benedict said, “will never realize the value of this inestimable treasure.” I would like to draw your attention to three points today:
- There Is Always an Opportunity: One of the worst experiences is to accept that you have lost the last chance to do something you have always wanted to do. This can occur in any human situation: job opportunities, university acceptances, etc. In the spiritual life, on the other hand, there is always the opportunity to live only for God, the opportunity to be redeemed. There is always the possibility to start again. Why is this? It is because God has granted us our time on earth to walk towards him. Therefore, even if we fall, he continues to give us the strength to get up. That is why the sacrament of reconciliation is so important. When we lose grace, our spiritual strength, we can regain it in the sacraments, especially in confession.
- Expecting More Than You Deserve: Considered from a merely human point of view, this Gospel’s situation is an unjust one. Whoever works more should receive more than those who work less. We tend to forget, however, that regarding the spiritual, everything is a gift. There is nothing in our nature that can demand grace. The requirements of our faith are not “favors” we do for God, but existential obligations. That is why Christ reminds us, “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do’” (Luke 17:10).
- The Generosity of God: God’s generosity is a manifestation of his love for us. He knows every person intimately and personally. He knows that the needs of some are bigger than those of others. To think that God loves some people more than others is an injustice to God. We owe love and respect to others because we are all human individuals with the same dignity. We owe adoration and love to God because he is our creator and provident Father. But God owes nothing to his creatures. Everything he gives us is gratuitous and a fruit of his infinite love. It’s too easy to treat God humanly, forgetting that he is God. The most beautiful gift he gives us is his grace.
Fr A Francis HGN