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25th SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME

Generous Land Owner

Why are we here today? We are here because we have looked for God’s mercy in life and we have found it in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus has revealed to us that God is generous and forgiving and that is why we have become Christians. And now we all have the privilege to work in his vineyard, in his Church. It is hard labor: We pray every day. We follow the commandments, we strive to do good and avoid evil. We come to worship the Lord every Sunday. We sacrifice our own needs to help others in need. But as Christians, this work is a great honor and privilege because we work for the Lord, the God who has saved us! We work not for pay but for love, love of God and neighbor. And it is a joy when others join us, even late in life, in this work to build up the Kingdom. These are the lessons we learn from the Parable Jesus gives us today in the Gospel.

We work knowing that that eternal life in Heaven is promised us. This is the motivation behind St. Paul’s words to the Philippians in the Second Reading. Although he wants to be with Christ in heaven, he says “If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” If we realize that we have been saved from eternal death then this fills us with joy and happiness to labor in God’s vineyard while we have life here on earth.

Some might complain about working in the vineyard, of how being Christian is more of a burden than a benefit. “If I were not Catholic, I wouldn’t have to worry about going to Mass every Sunday or waiting for marriage to have sex, birth control wouldn’t be a problem, I wouldn’t have to give to the Church and to the poor at least 10 percent of my paycheck. I could have it easy like everyone else.” Now I am not saying those who think this way are not Christian. All of us have probably had similar thoughts to some degree or another, even priests. I am saying that sometimes we forget how great a honor and privilege it is to be a Christian, to know God’s love and mercy, to honor Him with our every thought, word, and deed. So the real challenge to being a Christian is not the work but it is loving God more than ourselves.

Once we start complaining, the next step is that we stop working for love, and finally we stop working in God’s vineyard at all: We stop praying, we stop going to Mass, we stop waiting for marriage, we stop being kind and merciful to others. And although we don’t admit it, in affect we stop being Christian. And so we lose our salvation. It does seem like an easier life, but it is not worth losing out on Heaven.

Many Christians stop following Christ because they see what others have in the world and so they grow envious. Envious of those who haven’t found out what life is all about, who have yet to discover God and so use things or other people as their gods and source of meaning and happiness. They appear to have much more, but they have infinitely less. But we see them and become so preoccupied with what we don’t have that we are not thankful for what we do have. Think of a blind person who receives their sight through a miracle: How grateful they would be. They would not cease praising God every day! But a person who has always had the ability to see is less likely to be grateful to God for giving him sight. He just takes it for granted and complains because he can’t have all the tempting things before his eyes: (other people’s things, better looks, bigger homes, nicer cars, more money). He never thinks of the possibility of not seeing anything at all.

That is how a lot of Christian are: They take their faith for granted. They believe they are owed Heaven and so they stop living their Christian faith here on Earth. They think “I went to Sunday School. I got baptized. I got confirmed. I earned my way into heaven.” This is a human way of thinking like: “I work, I get my paycheck. I study, I get my degree and graduate.” But the Prophet Isaiah says God’s ways are not our ways. We can’t earn our way into Heaven. Jesus by his mercy and grace offers us Heaven through forgiveness of our sins. We need to receive his mercy over and over again because we sin over and over again. But when we experience his mercy, whether early on or late in life, we become active members of the Church who labor for Christ in the world by joyfully living the Gospel. Our pay is knowing that we please God and rejoice when others come to know and work for him. Often it is the new members who come in late that bring energy to a parish. It is a great blessing to be a member of a parish for a long time, but there is a danger when we think that we are owed more than others. We forget that it’s not our parish but the Lord’s – it’s his vineyard that he allows us to work in. That’s why we must work to spread the Gospel and welcome others among us to labor with us to build up the Kingdom.

Today is Catechist Sunday and we thank all who labor in Christ’s vineyard in order to teach the Catholic Faith to our young ones. It certainly isn’t easy work. Catechists sacrifice much. They have to spend many hours, not just teaching in class, but preparing the material and planning their class ahead of time. Their job is to not teach their own opinion but what Christ teaches through his Church. And the biggest responsibility they have is not just what they teach in class but the example they give through their Christian life: prayerfully preparing for Mass every Sunday, frequently asking for Christ’s mercy in Confession, and being a joyful witness to the Gospel. All this and they do not even get a pay check for doing it! It is a true labor of love.

So I personally thank all those who volunteer their time to answer the call of Christ to labor in his vineyard as Catechists. The Bishops of America have offered a theme for this Catechetical Year: “Teaching About God’s Gift of Forgiveness.” Forgiveness of sins cannot be taught unless it is first experienced. That is why Jesus has given us the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In Confession, we come to the Lord weighed down by our sins, and through his mercy, he forgives us and heals us, and we leave with great joy and peace. It is Christ himself who forgives sins through the priest. What a great gift!

May Christ help us all to appreciate more the blessings of our Faith and the privilege of working in his vineyard, remembering that although being Christian makes us last in this life, Christ promises us that as we continue to labor with love, we will be first in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Father Timothy Gallagher

9-18-14

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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