Last Sunday, today, and next Sunday, the vineyard is the setting for God’s Kingdom. Today, we hear the father of two sons give each of them the same instruction: “Go work in my vineyard.”
It seems this is the first lesson for every child of God to learn; what does the voice of the Father sound like? and what is he telling me to do? Have I heard the voice of God in my life?
Pope Francis keeps teaching us that our first order of faith is to have that ‘life changing’ encounter with Jesus. Jesus is the One who leads us to the Father. Jesus is the One who reveals the Father’s love and mercy to us.
Once we have encountered Jesus; once we have heard the Father inviting us to ‘go and work in my vineyard,’ then it is up to us to respond. As we hear in today’s Gospel, the first son replied that he would not go, but later had a change of heart, and did as the Father directed. The other son, said he would go, but did not. This is a very human story, which mirrors the fundamental choice before us with regards to accepting God’s presence and action in our life. Either we accept the Lord’s will and embrace it, or we do not. The story also reveals the role of conversion in our life; a conversion made possible by God’s mercy.
How often have we said ‘No’ to God, only later to discover how that response leads to regret, and remorse? Isn’t it also wonderful how God uses that remorse to cause us to have a change of heart (conversion) and to return to Him? This is the life of the first son, and also the life of those Jesus indicates who will enter the kingdom, namely tax collectors and prostitutes. These are not entering the Kingdom because they are tax collectors and prostitutes, but precisely because they converted their lives at the teaching of John the Baptist and the encounter with Jesus.
Another fundamental question posed by today’s Gospel: “Is my day to day life a conscious effort to work in the Father’s vineyard?” In other words, am I just working for myself, for worldly advantage, or is my work the work given to me to accomplish by God? This work often is one and the same, the sole difference is the attitude and purpose I seek to accomplish as a result. In other words, the same work can be accomplished, but I can be doing what I do only for my advantage, only to ‘make a profit.’ Or, I can do the same work for the good of another; to support my family, to feed the population of the world, to give gainful employment to others.
Is my work advancing God’s Kingdom, or only my selfish, personal interests? That is the difference between the two sons in today’s Gospel. Am I living for God and for others, or only for my self?
As these pictures indicate, I was in the Father’s vineyard today celebrating Mass with the people at St. Joseph in Albin, just two miles from the Nebraska border.
St. Joseph’s in Albin must be one of the few mission churches in the diocese not built through the aid of Catholic Extension Society. I would like to recognize in this blog the tremendous support this diocese has received over the years from Catholic Extension Society . Most of the mission churches were built through the support of Catholic Extension Society donors, and many of the mission churches and other parish facilities receive regular maintenance through Catholic Extension Society grants. Finally, every year the diocese receives a very generous grant from Catholic Extension Society to support our diocesan ministries. Please remember this great organization and their donors in your prayers.
Next Sunday will be the 5th anniversary of the phone call from Archbishop Sambi, telling me that Pope Benedict XVI had named me Bishop of Cheyenne. On that anniversary, I will have celebrated Mass with every faith community (72) in the Diocese. Saturday evening I will have 5:00 Mass at St. Brendan in Jeffrey City. Sunday morning I will have 8:00 Mass at Ascension in Hudson and finally a noon Mass at St. Joseph in Shoshoni.