“Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)
Last Sunday, Jesus told us to forgive without counting. This Sunday, Jesus tells us He too is willing to forgive and welcome the sinner even at the eleventh hour. God never asks us for something He Himself is not willing to give. No matter what your past has been, you too can enjoy the bliss of heaven with all the Saints. Just say ‘Yes’ and agree to work in His Vineyard today.
With this summary, let us now consider in detail our lessons for today.
1. Time is Ticking Out.
Someone once said: “There are no poor or rich people. Everyone regardless of race, colour, creed or family background has only twenty-four hours in a day.” No matter how influential or powerful you are, you cannot add even a single minute to your allotted twenty-four hours and this also means that you cannot extend your allotted time on earth. The Prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading passionately appeals to us: “Seek the Lord while He may be found.”
This means, there would surely come a time when the Lord can no longer be found, there would come a time when God will no longer be near; a time when repentance would be impossible. Dear friends, now is the time to repent. Now is the time for you to stop your wickedness against others. Now is the time to stop fighting people; to stop wishing evil against others.
There is a form of witchcraft that is common today even among us Christians – say, for instance, we do not like someone or the person offends us or say the person refuses to do business with us etc. We say nothing to him/her but deep in our hearts, we start to pray that some calamity or evil will before them, that the business would fail or that they would become disappointed somehow. We hold on to this negative energy without knowing it and when we eventually hear bad news, we become happy, we are even the first to publicise it and we glory in the tears of others saying: “You see, I said it, he/she didn’t listen to me.” Should we hear Good News, we become engrossed in bitterness and pretend to be happy. This is wickedness, it is witchcraft.
Repent today. Isaiah says, forsake your thoughts. Change your thoughts. Even if you don’t like someone, wish them well. Jesus says we should pray for our enemies, how much more our friends (or better put, those we pretend to be their friends). Return to God while you still have the opportunity to do so. Drop your negative energy.
2. Honour God with Your Body
The words of St. Paul in our Second Reading today are quite profound and worthy of meditation. “Christ will be honoured in my body whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” As we noted in the first lesson, no matter how powerful we are, when our time to die comes, we cannot add even a single second to what has been allotted to us. Death is very frightening. Even to be reminded of one’s mortality is considered by many as an insult. “How dare you tell me I will die?” Of course, will anyone live on earth forever?
The only way to defeat death is to make your life meaningful – as St. Paul says: “For me, to live is Christ” that is, to say, live for Christ or better put, make Christ your topmost priority. St. Paul is so confident. He seems not to know which to choose, whether to go on living or to die. He knows that if he dies, he would surely be welcomed in heaven. Until we all attain this level of confidence as Christians, we are not yet mature in the faith. Until we are able to overcome the fear of death, we are yet to start living.
Now you may wonder, how do we live for Christ? This is where our Gospel passage today comes in. Jesus, speaking through the parable, tells us to WORK FOR HIM. Become an agent in the mission of Christ; play your part in fostering God’s kingdom on earth; do something no matter how small, to plant the faith, to spread the Good News, to influence good morals etc. The vineyard is so big that there can never be enough labourers. There is always going to be room for more because as Jesus would say: “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few.” (Matthew 9:37).
It is all too easy for us to become frightened with terror when we see adherents of other religions using their positions in Government to promote their religious cause. When we Christians get into similar positions, what stops us from doing the same? Why are we the loudest champions of the idea of a secular state? Why do we make money our only priority when we can use our current position in life to push for bills that support the growth of the Christian faith? Why do we devote so much energy to fighting ourselves when there are millions of souls to be saved?
3. Collaboration not Competition.
There is a story I saw on social media a while ago. A lady asked her boss for permission to attend her sister’s wedding in another state and he shouted: “Who will clear the files, who will do this and do that… you can’t go!” She felt sad but very important. A few weeks later, they lost an employee in the office and the boss called for a meeting. He told them to observe a minute of silence and in less than 30 seconds, he broke the silence saying they could all get back to work. She then asked the boss: “Who will clear the files, who will do his job and so on.” He quickly responded: “Someone will resume tomorrow morning to take over his duties.” That was when she realized she was not so important after all.
When we begin to serve in God’s vineyard, pride becomes one of our greatest temptations. Somehow, we start looking down on others because we feel they are not doing as much as we are doing; we feel they are not winning as many souls as we do; we feel they are ordinary sinners while we are God’s Generals. We begin to count our achievements as though it was solely by our own efforts alone; we count the number of Churches, schools, hospitals and other facilities we have built and we make people literally bow to us.
This is the truth: the fact that I have been a Christian or even a priest for so many years does not make me more important than that woman who comes every Saturday to clean the pews in the Church or that young man who was baptized yesterday. Without their collaboration, I am nothing. They may be younger than me in the faith, but I have no right to look down on them or treat them as slaves. I may have worked longer and harder than others but in heaven, we shall all receive an equal reward. Truly, as Isaiah tells us in our first reading, the way we humans think is different from the way God thinks.
Conclusion: It is the Eleventh Hour, yet God is still Recruiting.
Are you ashamed of your past? Do you feel you have gone too far from God? My dear, your present is more important than your past. You may have stood idle all day, you may have even buried your talents, hung up your work tools but God is saying to you today: “You too, go into my vineyard.” It is not too late to repent. The Psalmist sings: “The Lord is close to all who call on him.” What are you waiting for? Call Him today. Start honouring God with your body; make Christ your topmost priority in our everyday life; contribute your quota in God’s kingdom and never disrespect anyone.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, help me to make the best use of my time, to repent while I can, to serve with all I have and to bear fruits for your kingdom on earth. Amen.Bible Study: Isaiah 55:6-9, Psalm 145, Philippians 1:20-24.27 and Matthew 20:1-16)