"Promises to Keep"

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time,

21 September 2020

For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.” Is. 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts.” (Is 55:8-9) These words from the prophet Isaiah remind us how much there is that separates our ways of thinking and acting from God’s. This is seen in today’s Gospel (Mt 20:1-16a) with the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard. The early labourers agreed to work for a denarius, but when they saw that those who came late in the day also got a denarius, they thought that they would get more. But they received only the payment to which they had agreed. They did not understand the owner of the vineyard, who was generous to the last workers. Why? “For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” (Is 55:8) We cannot now understand the ways of God! God is so good and so kind that He always wills what is best, and we cannot question it. If we do question God, it shows our evil tendencies, which do not perceive the good: “Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?” (Mt 20:15) Who can understand the mysterious decisions of God? If God chooses to give graces and blessings to some more than to others, that is His right: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I will?” (Mt 20:15) In the human condition of this life here on earth, we should understand that we are all really labourers in the vineyard of the Lord. We will all get the same reward in heaven: “And he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just.” (Mt 20:4) However, God sees that some who may be called last are better than those called first: “So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” (Mt 20:16)

Our Baptismal Promises

We have all agreed to work in the Lord’s vineyard by our baptismal promises. This means that we need to do all that we can to further the Kingdom of God here on earth. This is the “Father’s business” (cf. Lk. 2:49) which is the salvation of souls. Pope St. John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation, Christifideles Laici, 30 December 1988 says: “Since the work that awaits everyone in the vineyard of the Lord is so great there is no place for idleness. With even greater urgency the ‘householder’ repeats his invitation: ‘Go you also into the vineyard.” Let us hope that there will not be many people who may not find Christ because of our bad example or idleness. Pope St. Gregory the Great exhorts us also: “Each one should examine themselves to see how energetically they are working in the vineyard of the Divine Sower. Perhaps we have not dedicated everything we have to the service of the Lord. The people who really work for Him... are those who are anxious to win souls and bring other to the vineyard.” St. Gregory the Great, Homilies on the Gospels, 19, 2 No one who has crossed our path in this life should be able to say that he or she was not encouraged by our example to love Jesus Christ more! None of our family or friends should be able to say, at the end of their lives, that we were not concerned about their eternal salvation.

“I will give him ... a new name” Rev. 2:17

In the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse), we are told that for our faithfulness, God will give them a new name: To him that overcometh, I will give the hidden manna, and will give him a white counter, and in the counter, a new name written, which no man knoweth, but he that receiveth it.” Rev. 2:17 Jesus Christ has a special plan for all of us in His Church! Pope St. John Paul II writes: “From eternity God has thought of us and has loved us unique individuals. Every one of us he called by name, as the Good Shepherd ‘calls His sheep by name.’” Christifideles Laici #58. We are to do God’s will in our lives as St. Paul tells us in today’s Second Reading from the Epistle to the Philippians (1:20-24, 27); he would prefer to go to Christ now in heaven, but he knows that the Lord still has work for him to do: For to me, to live is Christ; and to die is gain. And if to live in the flesh, this is to me the fruit of labour, and what I shall choose I know not.” Phil. 1: 21-22 We, too, have the same problem! It would be much easier to die and go to heaven, but as long as we live, we need to bear fruit in our lives. The American poet, Robert Frost, in his poem, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” longs for death, but he knows that he has more to do in his life: “But I have promises to keep,/ And miles to go before I sleep.”

“Promises to keep”

When we die, God will show us our lives and what we have done with the gifts and talents that He has given to us. He will ask us if we practiced the Catholic faith as we promised in baptism. He will show us our lives and what He has planned for us. We will see how we may not have lived up to His wishes! If we married, He will show the children that He wanted to give us and what they would have done in life--- also, their children and their children to the third and fourth generation. In the 19th Century, St. John Vianney told a woman who feared having a child late in her life: “There are many women (men too) in hell who would not accept the children that God wanted to give them.” St. Francis of Assisi said, “Great things have we promised, still greater are promised to us.” Let us pray that we fulfill all that God expects of us, and then we will earn the great reward that awaits us in heaven for labouring in the Lord’s vineyard here on earth.

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