Sharing in the Labor of the Father’s Vineyard
December 13, 2016 (readings)
Memorial of Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr
Father James Swanson, LC
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”
Introductory Prayer: Father, here I am before you, ready to open my heart to you. I believe that you are my God, my Creator. I am confident that you are leading me home to you day by day. You wish to draw me closer to you, because you have given me your only Son as my Redeemer. I love you and wish to cooperate with your loving designs for my salvation and the salvation of countless souls. Here I am, Lord, to do your will!
Petition: Lord, help me to cooperate generously in your work of salvation.
1. Saying “Yes, But No.” It seems that the longer we have been following Jesus, the more we are like the second son in the parable. We have said “Yes” to God. Our intention is to follow him, but in the end, we don’t seem to follow him very well. We come up short. Then we renew our resolutions to follow him more closely, and before long, we catch ourselves once again using up our time on ourselves and doing very little for him. What’s wrong? We don’t truly want to be like the second son, who said “Yes” only with his lips. In what aspect of my life am I saying, “Yes, but no”?
2. Doing the Bare Minimum: Isn't at least part of the problem that Jesus doesn't come first in our lives? Since we live in a world where many follow him lukewarmly––if at all––, it's easy to think we are doing a wonderful, even exceptional, job with the way we practice our faith. It’s easy to think this way even when we're doing little more than the bare minimum, or perhaps living with a fatal flaw in some basic virtue like charity or purity. What if we were evaluated in our Christianity the way we would be evaluated for a job? Would we keep that job if we never worried about doing more than the bare minimum, or if we lacked one of the basic skills needed for it? Why do I think I can get away with shoddy work when it comes to Jesus? Do I forget that God the Father invites me to work in his vineyard, the Church, not as a servant, but as his son/daughter?
3. I Am Crucial for the Salvation of Souls: Following Jesus is the single most important thing I have to do in my life. It is more important than any job I could ever have. He has given me a mission in my life similar to his own mission. Our Lord wishes me to earn graces not only for myself but for many souls out there whom I may never even know. These graces could be crucial for the salvation of many souls. Certainly, if I am married, my spouse and children would be the first ones to benefit from the graces I gain through my prayers, good works and sacrifices. But in addition, I have no way of knowing how many others will depend on my holiness. I need to be ready at any time to bear witness to Jesus and to be a faithful instrument of his grace for whomever he places in my life.
Conversation with Christ: Dear Jesus, I am preparing myself to celebrate the beginning of your mission of salvation. Help me to understand the importance of the part of your mission you have entrusted to me, so I can live it well as you hope I will. Help me to be more faithful to the daily living of my Christian life and to give witness to you in all situations. Help me to guide others to you with real Christian charity, not pride, so they will not be repelled by my behavior, but drawn to you. Help me to be the light to my family that you want me always to be.
Resolution: What part of my mission do I do the most poorly? I will take some time to think about how I will accomplish it better today and put it into action.