Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sept. 21, 2014: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Click to hear audio homily
Boudreaux from Donaldsonville dies and goes to heaven. St. Peter meets him at the pearly gates. St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”

“Okay,” Boudreaux says, “I attended church every Sunday.”
“That’s good,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth two points.”
“Two points?” he says. “Well, I gave 10% of all my earnings to the church.”
“Well, let’s see,” answers Peter, “that’s worth another 2 points. Did you do anything else?”
“Two points? Golly. How about this: I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”
“Fantastic, that’s certainly worth a point, ” he says.
“Hmmm…” Boudreaux says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”
“That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth three points!”
“THREE POINTS!!” Boudreaux cries. “At this rate the only way I get into heaven is by the grace of God!”

St. Peter replied, “Come on in!”

Did you get the gist of the story? It’s an interesting way to explain how God will judge us at the end of our lives. We tend to think that the entry into Heaven is by a merit system. According to this thinking, we work hard on this earth earning merits, and at the Pearly Gates St. Peter will let us in depending on how many merit badges we have earned. This is the kind of thinking that Jesus was challenging in the Gospel today.

The parable of the workers in the vineyard presents a completely unlikely scenario. Just like an employer today will pay his workers for only the hours they worked,  it is very improbable that an first century owner of Galilean vineyards would have paid guys who had only worked one hour the same as those who had worked all day. The shocking part of the story--where the vineyard owner pays everyone the same wage--is what makes the story a parable. Why did he do that? Why was he so generous to the point of carelessness?

Clearly, this isn't a story about a vineyard down the road; rather, it is a parable about the  kingdom of God and about God's attitude toward God’s workforce. It is irrelevant how long they have worked for God; the issue is that they contributed to God's vineyard. The parable is about a vineyard owner, the point of comparison with God, who is generous to everybody and who gives to everybody abundantly and who then has to deal with the anger and the jealousy that gets created by those who believe they deserve more than anybody else.

The Pharisees and the Jews assumed that God worked on the merit system and that according to this system, we must earn our graces by hard work.
In the Gospel the vineyard owner asks a question that reveals the heart of our own struggle. “Are you envious because I am generous?” Our hearts are not always generous enough to rejoice in the mercy extended to others. Often we are small and petty in the way we think and act. Fortunately for us, as we read today from Isaiah, God’s ways are as high above our ways as the heavens are above the earth. As disciples of the kingdom of God we are called to announce the good news of God’s incomprehensible and generous divine mercy. Let us ask God for forgiveness for our smallness of heart, while at the same time ask the Lord for us to become more and more like Him.

Let me share with you today a portion of a great prayer by St. Faustina, a saint chosen to spread the message of Divine Mercy.

I want to be completely transformed into Your mercy and to be Your living reflection, O Lord. May the greatest of all divine attributes, that of Your unfathomable mercy, pass through my heart and soul to my neighbor.

Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbors' souls and come to their rescue.  

Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbors' needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.  

Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbor, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.  

Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds, so that I may do only good to my neighbors and take upon myself the more difficult and toilsome tasks.   

Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbor, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness. My true rest is in the service of my neighbor.   

Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbor. I will refuse my heart to no one. I will be sincere even with those who, I know, will abuse my kindness. And I will lock myself up in the most merciful Heart of Jesus. I will bear my own suffering in silence. May Your mercy, O Lord, rest upon me (...).

O my Jesus, transform me into Yourself , for you can do all things.