Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
25th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Graced Moments
We just heard the parable of the laborers called to work at various times during the day. Come on now. Let's be honest. It seems to us that the laborers who worked all day had a reasonable argument. Why should the guys who only worked for just an hour or two get paid the same amount as those who worked for eight or ten hours? It just doesn't seem right, does it?
Come on, now. Let's be honest. It seems neither fair nor just, does it? Mary spent her entire youth in prayer and union with God. She had prepared for that meeting with the angel Gabriel, even though she had not expected it, She had prepared herself to allow God's grace to transform her into the Mother of God. She needed the hand of God to get her through the difficult days of Jesus' earthly ministry when many were calling on her to get her son to tone down his message. She was even prepared for the worst moment of her life as she stood at the foot of the cross. Then, while she was there, a convicted felon to whom we give the name Dismis made a last moment act of faith and was promised paradise. Compared to Mary, Dismis did little; yet he was being rewarded for his one act of faith. This seems neither fair nor just. It isn't, at least not by our standards.
The Gospel for today, the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, tells us that God is far more gracious then men. It is encouraging us to realize that we do not have the right to make either judgments or comparisons in the realm of spiritual affairs.
The Gospel of Matthew was written primarily to an audience of Christians who were Jewish. For ages these were the Chosen People. Their ancestors had fought and suffered to preserve faith in Yahweh. Now, as Christians, they were thrown out of the synagogue, they were rejected by their own people. They had suffered much for the Lord. They had suffered for ages, and were suffering still. But when this gospel was written, there were many others who were choosing Christ who did not have a ancestral history of fighting for their faith. Their ancestors were Gentiles, pagans. Now, at the end of the day, without what appeared to be any significant service to Yahweh, the Gentiles were being called into the salvation of the Lord.
Unfair, Unjust? “No,” says the Lord. We only see it as unfair or unjust because our ways are not his ways. What the Lord sees in the late conversion of someone who had been far from Him is the response to a Graced moment.
A Graced Moment is an occurrence in our lives that causes us to stop and think about the role we are called to play in the Kingdom of God. A Graced Moment can come at the birth of a child, or at the death of a Loved One. For some, their marriage is a Graced Moment as they decide that they want infinitely more than a legal agreement or even a blessing on their marriage. They want Jesus Christ as the Center of their love. For others, their children’s First Communion is a Graced Moment as they guide their little ones to receive the Lord and decide that they now more than ever need to make the Eucharist a priority in their lives also. For many Teens confirmation is a Graced Moment as they realize that they need to take their faith seriously and commit to Jesus Christ. A Graced Moment can come when a major decision is to be made, or when a person feels the need to change his or her lifestyle. The Lord is concerned that we respond to His call to grace. There is mercy, compassion and forgiveness for the past. What matters to the Lord is the present and future. The owner goes back to the marketplace to hire more workers because there is work to be done in his vineyard, even if the sun is just a few hours from setting.
The sad problem is that many people give up on ourselves. But the Lord never gives up on us. Sometimes, we have the view that "it is just too late". Something we have done in our past is so terrible that God could never return us to a full share of His love. If this type of thought has come to the mind of anyone who reads this, let me tell you with the authority of the Gospel: You are wrong. You are judging by human standards, not by the standards of the Love and Mercy and Compassion of the Lord. God never gives up. He never gives up on us. We do not have the right to give up on ourselves.
"Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;" the Prophet Isaiah tells us in the first reading. "Take advantage of the graced moments the Lord provides." We do not have the right to think that we know better than the Lord how He should lavish His goodness, whether that be on others or on us. As Isaiah concludes: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
The message the Church prepares for us today is simple: Trust in God. His love is greater than our most profound hope.