The vineyard figures a lot in the parables of Christ. It provides the environment where the Kingdom of God takes root and the drama of salvation unfolds. There in the vineyard, the work is hard, patience is essential, the wages, as we saw last week, (Mathew 20) are unpredictable. The vineyard can also be a dangerous place to work. Scuffles between workers can erupt (Mark 9:33), and even blood is spilled (as next week's Gospel passage will show us, Matthew 21:33-43). "Go out and work in the vineyard" (Matthew 21:28). Our immediate attitude to such an invitation when we see the big picture is a certain reluctance. “You want to send me into the vineyard, into the midst of the storm, the conflict, battle, and bloodshed and even at the risk of my own life? (cf. Acts 13:46)
Sep 26, 2020
Sep 19, 2020
For the next few Sundays, the Gospel message brings us once again outside. This time, we are not following Christ to see what He is going to do next, hoping we’ll witness a miracle or taking delight in Him silencing the opposition. Instead prepare yourself for some heavy lifting for He talks to us about the importance of hard work, not just for a living, but also for the sake of eternal life.
Our salvation rests upon the solid foundation of our faith in Christ and the good works God’s grace allows us to do. Both faith and good works do not come naturally to us. They demand that we actively cooperate with God’s grace in every situation we encounter. Christ’s parable of the owner of the vineyard continually going out to search for workers, at dawn, then at noon and once again in the late afternoon and then in the evening giving every worker, regardless of how many hours the worked, the same salary, should remind us of a few simple but eternal truths.
First, we may often complain that God isn’t fair. But that’s true! He does not play by our own rule book. If we wanted Him to do so, we would be trying to fashion God in our own image and likeness according to our own standards of fairness and justice. A small child may complain to their parent that they are not being fair. The parent does not need to explain their rationale, except to assure the child that tough love is indeed love. God reminds us in this Sunday’s first reading:
“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.” Isaiah 55:6–9
Second, this Sunday’s Gospel will also remind us that we should be always grateful to God for sending particular individuals into our lives at different times or for sending us into their life when the time is right. Because only God sees all time and human history (past, present and future), each one of us exist and interact at a certain time, in a particular place, within a unique context, but never by accident. St. Paul accepted this, without understanding why. In the second reading for Sunday he writes:
I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. Philippians 1:20c–24, 27a.
In short, as we try to look at the big picture of the events of our lives and our nation that unfold before us, we can never see it from the perspective of eternity. Only God can and He does, knowing that His loving plan will unfold according to mind alone, not ours. If we trust Him, that makes God, in our sight, not reckless or laid back, but prudent! It’s always the right time to be prudent.
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?’ Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Sep 11, 2020
Above: One of our own at the front lines. Keep them all in your prayers.
The Sunday Scriptures see us standing before many fires - pandemic, civil, political, religious, environmental, ideological and sociological.
Entering into this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The word “Gospel” literally means Good News, but not in the sense of “happy thoughts”. The word has Roman military overtones! With the defeat of an enemy, an imperial proclamation officially announced the “good news” of an new era of peace - that the war was over, hostilities have ceased. At the birth of Christ, an army of angels marched to the edge of heaven and proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.”
This does not mean that everything will now be rosy in the garden. A blossoming bougainvillea planted along a fence line with its bright colors but hidden thorns is a better picture of the reality of our landscape. The memories and scars of conflict are often still present. Battlefields still smolder, triggered by reminders of the stench of death and injury. But never forget the heroic and saintly efforts of those who endured or gave their lives defending the godly virtues to live lives “free from fear and saved from the hands of our foes” (Luke 1:74).
The heavens have indeed proclaimed the Gospel message of victory and Resurrected Christ Himself embodies it in the combat uniform of His body and blood, but there are still pockets of ongoing resistance, fighting and hostility. This comes to us even though “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins” (words from the text of sacramental absolution).
So what is there left to be done?
The final hotspot, fanned into flames by that relentless rebel, is often within our own heart and mind. Sunday’s Old Testament Reading (Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 27:30—28:7) reminds us how, like a tinderbox, we are so susceptible to bursting into eternal flames because of the environment we create or tolerate around us. “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.” But the Gospel of Christ offers us the peace terms if we are to live in the Kingdom of God. When Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” And Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:21–35). In other words, “Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us”.
It’s often easier to light a fire than to put one out. Let us pray for the strength of the firefighter St. Michael, the conviction of the messenger St. Gabriel and the healing touch of the medic St. Raphael - archangels sent before us to lead us onward and upward towards the mercy of God.
Father Cávana Wallace
Sep 4, 2020
As we discern what God is expecting us to say and to do during the coming weeks and months, Sunday’s psalm is timely: “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts”.
Fresh from anchoring seven strong metal columns around our gathering place outside the church, reflect on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit as our secure pillars under which we can find shade from the heat of the day.
The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Knowledge: We often have too much information at our fingertips that knowing what is truly good and truly evil often becomes distorted. Come Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Understanding: When we abdicate our ability to think rationally, it’s easy to allow “experts” to do our thinking for us. Come Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Wisdom: It is sometimes too easy to react to the message of a strongman, the activist, or the celebrity. It takes time and effort to see the “big picture”. Come Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Right Judgement: The truth is alway attractive, but seldom popular. Christ’s whole life and His teachings bear testimony to this. There are times when we must swallow our pride and even change our minds. Come Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Courage: Without meaningful sacrifice, love of God, neighbor or self falls flat. Without embracing our own cross or shouldering the weight of someone else struggling to carry theirs, we are dead already. Come Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Reverence: All of creation, everything and everyone is gently marked by the loving fingerprints of God and aroma of His presence. If only our eyes could better see, and our words and actions always reflect His presence. Come Holy Spirit!
The Holy Spirit’s Gift of Wonder and Awe: We can spend too much time and energy trying to make progress, trying to catch up, always being busy, worrying or fearful about the future. Come Holy Spirit!
Sunday’s Gospel Acclamation
2 Corinthians 5:19
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ
and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
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