26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 28, 2014 – Year A
Readings: Ez 18:25-28; Psalm 25; Phil 2:1-11; Mt 21:28-32
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
I don’t know about you but I like it when Jesus talks about vineyards. For me, it conjures up images of sitting in an adirondack chair over looking rows and rows of vines while sipping a glass of Nebbiolo. Birds chirping, mountains in the distance. However, I don’t think that’s the image that Jesus was going for.
Vineyards in first century Jerusalem were not tourist destinations. They were not places of relaxation. They were a lot of work, like any farm is today. Working in a vineyard was hot, dirty and tiring. Incidentally, there is still a lot of hard work that goes on at vineyards today, but we tourists don’t see it.
However, the Scriptures are timeless. They are relevant in every age.
Earlier this week, we had a reading was from Ecclesiastes. It reads, “What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun.” How true is this? In our first reading, the prophet Ezekiel is speaking to the Israelites, urging them to repent and follow the will of God by living up to the Covenant. Six hundred years later, in the Gospel, Jesus is taking the chief priests and scribes to task because they are talking the talk but not walking the walk. Two thousand years later, we are still struggling with the same thing.
Our lives at home, work or school are filled with obligations and expectations. Dishes have to be cleaned, laundry must be done and the grass needs to be cut. Fields need to be planted, houses don’t build themselves and reports must be filed. To learn the skills we need to provide for ourselves and our families, homework needs be completed and tests must be passed.
Our faith makes demands of us too. We have a loving and merciful God, but in the end our ultimate fate depends on the choices that we make in this life. As Christians, we are called to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind and to love our neighbor as ourself. At first glance, this sounds pretty straightforward, but in our day to day life, it can be pretty hard. We have good intentions, but we don’t always follow through.
Volumes have been written about about how to live a Christian life; how to reject temptation and follow the will of God. I could stand up here and preach to you for an hour and I would only scratch the surface. Instead, I would like to highlight three areas where we can start.
First, we must take care of the gifts that God has given us. The world around us is a priceless gift and it has been placed in our care. We are called to be good stewards. Pope Francis tells us to ”be ‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.” Care of the environment is also a concern of our bishops. I encourage everyone to go to the website of the USCCB and read the documents regarding the care of creation.
But that’s only half of it. We must also take care of ourselves. Our existence is a gift from God and we need to be good stewards of our bodies and our spirits. Our parish has started a Health and Holiness ministry to provide everyone with resources for taking care of their physical and spiritual health. Please visit our first ever Health & Holiness Fair after Mass. You will have the opportunity to meet a lot of parishioners, and make some new connections, find out how you can use your gifts to help others, and let them help you as well.
Second, we are called to spread the good news of the Gospel. The New Evangelization was very important to St. John Paul II and it is also very important to Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis and our own bishop. At the recent deacon convocation, Bishop DiLorenzo urged all of us deacons and our wives to promote evangelization so I’m urging all of you to share your faith with the people that you meet each day. Also, reach out to family and friends that no longer practice their faith. Sometimes, people are just waiting for a friendly invitation.
The third thing that I encourage everyone to do is to support our community of faith. One way that I have been blessed to serve during my first year of ordination is by performing baptisms. At each one, I ask the parents and godparents if they accept the responsibility of bringing up their child in the Faith. However, they are not the only ones who are responsible. It is the duty of each one of us to serve as a living example. The children are watching and listening to each of us; the good and the bad. We all must be a models of Christ for each other.
In the readings today, Ezekiel and Jesus both tell us that it is more important how we finish the race than how we started. God’s mercy and love are unmatched and he is ready to welcome anyone back to him. It’s never too late as long as we are still breathing. All we need to do is open our heart to him and share in the work of his vineyard.