Going to Church must help us hear God asking us to go into His vineyard today
The First Reading this week is a great continuation of the Gospel from last week: someone comes for the last hour and receives a full day’s wage. This week, someone who repents just before death, is welcomed into Heaven!
Are we happy about that? It really calls into question our purpose in life: is it to make ourselves happy, or help others reach Heaven? It’s obviously not a simple question or a simple answer. We all have a right to be happy. God wants us to be happy!
However, God also wants everyone to be saved. And, if we are disciples of Jesus Christ, then it should make us happy when someone has a death-bed conversion! Why? Because we are called by our Baptism, to be the hands, feet and mouth of Jesus.
In fact, true lasting happiness does not come from what we can buy or do for ourselves, but on the joy of empowering others (=getting them into Heaven).
The Gospel throws a bit of mud at the Jewish leaders and, by extension today, a challenge to all priests and Bishops, especially, who are called to go into the vineyard. How many of us priests have said YES to go into the vineyard, but only work for 8 hours, while our people work hard all day + travel time + working at home for the children and cleaning house.
This could be a modern day interpretation of the second son in the Gospel: “Certainly, sir, but did not go.” Most priests have housekeepers, cooks and all manner of material comforts, which should free us to work hard or, at least, be available for 12 hours per day. And many are.
But it is sad, in Kenya, that some priests run small businesses on the side which reduces their time for the people. This is OK if the parish cannot meet the basic needs of the priest.
Now that we see how the clergy can be guilty, what about each of us? Are we not part of the priesthood of Jesus Christ? So, therefore, God is also talking to all of us today.
In married life, mum and dad are head of the basic church, the family. How faithful are they: on wedding days we say: YES, I DO. But are we always faithful to that promise?
For single people, are we Christlike leaders in our workplaces? Are we holy on Sunday but competitive devils during the week? A youth shared how a lady neighbour purchased him shoes when he was an altar server with no dad. It’s inspired him to help others now he has a job.
So, this week I believe each of us must reflect on where is the vineyard God has called us to, and prove M. Ghandi wrong. He once said: I think the Christian religion might be the best, and I would become one if I could find one. [adapted]
It hurts our pride when we read something like that, but can we reflect on our leadership and service at home, in our workplaces, and in our local communities?
As mentioned above, the only true and lasting joy we can find is the joy of helping others reach Heaven: either by our kindness, our assistance, or our presence. At home, work, in the Church.
Many studies report how an increased presence of parents at home, with their children, helps the child develop a strong sense of belonging, good mental health and an ability to empathise with others; is less likely to abuse drugs/ alcohol or engage in risky behaviour. Although a great sacrifice, it brings joy in the following years, for they helped their children enter Heaven.
In our workplaces, do we empower the workers? Especially the younger people? If we think they give little, perhaps it is because we do little more than the minimum required. In the 1980’s, in Australia, the Government forced employers to do workplace training. Initially, the mining companies were annoyed, but quickly saw improved workplace safety and production.
Finally, there are many parents crying because their children have stopped going to Church. Instead of making them feel guilty, we should listen to the Gospel today and concentrate on being the presence of Christ in our home, our local community and workplaces.
Our example of joyful Christian living will be more effective in bringing them back to church – because we will be different at Church each week: we can help our churches become more alive and of service to others, rather than places of “in and out, that’s my duty for the week!”
Let us develop a healthy fear of the future: what kind of vineyard do we want for our children? Parents sacrifice many things to help their children succeed. But it will all be wasted if our children die from increasing violence in the community tomorrow.
Let us reflect seriously: what small thing can I do now, to make a difference? More smiling? More letters to politicians? More words of congratulation to others? Introduce a fun activity at church? As we make these small efforts, I’m sure our mental health will improve, as well as the health of our society.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI