Is 55: 6-9; Phil 1: 20-24, 27; Matt 20: 1-16
All parables reveal something about the nature of God.
This one reveals that “The Lord’s ways are not our ways, nor are his thoughts our thoughts.” In this parable, the vineyard owner is God. Those who come to work early in the morning are the Israelites. The late shift are the Gentiles. They entered the church later. They are also the sinners who God seeks out. Jesus’ audience in this gospel passage does not understand this. Bishop Barron puts it this way:
“How would you feel if you saw me socializing with prostitutes and drug-dealers, eating and drinking with terrorists? Would it shock you, dismay you, disappoint you? But this is what Jesus did, precisely because he is the Incarnation of the God who aggressively seeks out the lost.”
This vineyard owner is “relentless,” one Biblical commentator says. He goes out personally, beginning at dawn, not once, not twice, but five times in pursuit laborers for his vineyard. Bishop Barron continues: “God looks for us, comes running after us, never lets go, never relents, never gives up. The more we run, the more he runs after; the more we hide, the more he looks; the more we resist, the more he persists.” The poet Francis Thompson calls him “The Hound of Heaven” in his poem by that name. He hounds us until he gets us.
Our job as Christians is to assist Christ in his vineyard, his mission. We are obliged by our baptism and confirmation to do this. Pope Francis said last week that the Church from its inception has been evangelistic. It exits to evangelize, to spread the faith. All of us are called to evangelize. Every time we leave this church, we are saying something about who we are as Christians. Our program “Sharing Christ” will help us to do this better. Each of us is a word that Christ speaks to the world. St. Paul tells us: “Always be prepared to give them a reason for your hope.” A simple thing to do is this: do you see new people here in church on Sunday? They may be visitors. Go up to them. Introduce yourself. Tell them they are welcome back anytime. Be the “Word” that goes out from God’s mouth that does not return to Him void.
Yes, Christ pursues people, even late in life, even in the classic deathbed conversion. That’s what’s suggested in this parable, too. God’s mercy knows no time. Great saints have come to the Church late in life. They made up in intensity what they lacked in duration.
Our liturgy strengthens us by the Eucharist on this altar of sacrifice to go to the world, to proclaim Christ by the Word of God that we are, to produce much fruit and thereby be the fruit of God’s Kingdom here on earth. Go, be fruity!